Monday, April 29, 2013

Heaven? Sounds like a job from Hell!



Is Heaven like depicted in stories, TV, and cartoons? D. McF. asks, Billy Graham answers:

We will have work to do in heaven
DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: Will we just float around on a cloud when we get to heaven, and be kind of like ghosts or something? — D.M.

DEAR D.M.: No, that image you see in cartoons of someone floating around on a cloud and strumming a harp simply isn’t true. Nor is it true that we’ll be purely spiritual creatures in heaven with no physical substance, somewhat like ghosts.

The Bible doesn’t answer all our questions about heaven and what it will be like, but it does tell us two important truths (among others). First, it tells us that we will be given new bodies in heaven — bodies that will be similar to our bodies right now, but without the limitations and diseases that currently plague us. In fact, the Bible says our new bodies will be like the resurrected body of Jesus. We can barely imagine this — but it’s true! (1 Corinthians 15:49)

Second, the Bible tells us that we’ll have work to do in heaven because we’ll be serving God and doing his will. Unlike here, however, we won’t become weary, nor will we become ill or injured. We won’t be bored in heaven! (Revelations 22:3)

The real question, however, is this: Are you certain that you will be going there? Sin cuts us off from God, - both now and in eternity. But Christ died to take away our sins. Make sure of your salvation by putting your faith and trust in Christ and committing your life to him without delay.
One thing that Graham gets correct is that the Biblical Heaven is not the usual image of sitting on a
fluffy cloud playing a harp and just enjoying an eternal vacation. It doesn't give anything close to a detailed description of Heaven, but what the Bible says about Heaven is that it will consist of us eternally worshiping God. Yeah, that sounds like loads of fun...

But rather than stopping with 'this is what the Bible says about Heaven', he does one of the things he does best... Jump to conclusions! What will we look like in Heaven? We'll have all new bodies and be free of disease. He then exclaims that 'it's true!'. Whoa now Billy, hold on to your horses. How did you happen to determine so certainly the nature of life in Heaven, when the very existence of Heaven has never been proven? Oh that's right... the Bible. The very same book that proposes the existence of Heaven.

Does anyone else see the problem of using the source of the unfounded claim to also act as further 'evidence' of that claim. I might as well cite the Norse mythology in regards to the description and existence of Valhalla and pat myself on the back for proving this theology true 'beyond question'. Any rational person (and even many irrational people) would agree that I would do no such thing in that hypothetical example. You can not prove a claim, by only citing that claim to back up your claim. Yet that's exactly what Graham (and many believers) do every single day. If they are intellectually honest, they have to either accept that this argument proves the Norse theology, or that it doesn't prove Christianity (as it is so often claimed that it does).

In the version of the story that ran in my paper, Graham opines that the real question is if you are certain that you will be going to heaven. As I've covered in an earlier blog, there is no certainty as heaven is based on nothing more than a pile of assumptions. The notion of sin cutting one off from God is an absurd notion for a god that's supposed to be omniscient and omnipotent. If he is those things, it's impossible to 'cut ourselves off from him'. Also consider the absurdity that all are damned because of so called 'Original Sin'.

Trouble is that we already know that a literal interpretation of Genesis simply doesn't wash. Couple that facts of evolution with that, and the Christian is faced with a very real problem. No Adam and Eve means no Original Sin. No Original Sin, means that the supposed 'sacrifice' of Jesus was largely in vain. Sure, that would still leave individual 'sins' on the table, but it kills the notion that all are automatically damned.

I actually think there is a more interesting question to be asked. Assuming that there is a Heaven, and it is as advertised, do you want to go there? I've already talked prior about why Heaven is a folly as claimed, but would you still want to go there? Personally, I'd have to answer with a resounding no. If Heaven is as advertised, I'm not interested. I'd welcome the non-existence that faces me long before I'd wish for Biblical Heaven (or even non-Biblical versions).

Oh, but then you'll be in Hell, isn't Heaven better? I'll take my chances (assuming the Heaven/Hell proposal were true). Who's to say what Hell is really like if it actually exists. We've only ever heard it described from the oppositions point-of-view after-all. Would you trust a Ford dealers review of a Chevy (or vice versa) as an unquestionable and unbiased source? So why should we just assume that Satan's 'place' is as God describes? It could just as well be a smear campaign as the actual truth. Of course I don't believe in the Devil either. But one thing seems to be certain... If there is a Hell, that's where all the fun people are. Biblical Heaven sounds more like Hell to me.

There is also another issue with the threats of Hell that try and scare you into the eternal boredom of Heaven. Of course there's the fire and burning. But that would require that Hell be an actually physical place. Fire burns actual matter, and our physical nerve endings are what allow us to feel pain. So if Hell isn't physical, there's nothing to worry about. But there's problems even if it is physical. Supposedly you will be tortured and burned until there's nothing left. Then you will be 'restored', only for it to start over, on and on for eternity. This would only be a temporary torment though.

You must consider how tolerance builds over time. When you visit a place that is much hotter than where you reside, the difference feels extreme. But the longer you stay there the more tolerance builds. After a while, the temperature feels normal to you. Say that you moved to Florida and got used to the weather there. Then you visit your old home after years, and find that the 50°F highs now feel terribly cold to you. Likewise, the initial torture you endure would be horrible. But it would eventually become the new norm... same shit, different day. It would become expected, you'd know that you will just be 'restored' once it's 'over', but you would one day get used to it. It's a outrageous thought at first, but over the space in eternity, it becomes a very plausible outcome.

All that said, I don't think there is a Heaven or a Hell, so I don't care what either would actually be like. So don't worry yourself about learning to play the harp, or making plans for eternity. There's no afterlife to worry about. If there is, I'll save you a seat in Valhalla, but I don't think any of us have any need to worry. Lets focus on enjoying this life, rather than planning for another that probably doesn't even exist.

-Brain Hulk

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Friday, April 26, 2013

The cost of convenience

It's time again for one of my favorites... responding to chain emails that don't quite pass muster. Today's concerns it's self with the green movement and previous generations. As before, I'll reply to each quoted section separately:
Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to me the other day, that I should bring my own grocery bags because plastic bags weren't good for the environment. I apologized and explained, "We didn't have this green thing back in my earlier days." * The clerk responded, "**That's our problem today**. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations."** * She was right -- our generation didn't have the green thing in its day.

This chain email starts out poorly, because it fails to define what generation the older generation is. We can get an idea from the remaining examples. But that still only narrows things to a few generations. Let's move on...

Back then, *we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store*. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over.* **So they really were recycled*. But we didn't have the green thing back in our day.

The initial point here is a good one. When these things all came in glass bottles, and were used again,
and again, the system was more ecologically responsible than today's disposable practices. But is this the fault of following generations? If you want to blame one generation here, you have to blame all involved. That's because the move from glass to plastic and aluminum was a move made by the cola, milk, and beer companies. It was cheaper for them to do away with the traditional glass offering for cola and milk, and beer could also be put in cans instead of exclusively glass bottles. They could make more profit, while offering cheaper prices to the consumer. And what happened next? Every generation, old and new, ate up these more affordable offerings. So if we are going to try and place the blame anywhere, I'd cast it initially on those looking to profit, and then extend it to all of us.

I must say that I find the 'so they really were recycled' line to be curious. Not because I think it's wrong. The statement it's self is factual. But this opening argument seems to be attempting to frame the older generation as the greenest of the green. But there's a problem... When it comes to recycling, my personal experience has shown that the older a person is, the less likely they seem to recycle. Obviously, this isn't a rule written in stone, but that's what my own observations have shown. I know plenty of people from older generations that do recycle, and I'm glad they do. But for some reason, the largest group of people that I know that don't recycle (on purpose) are from older generations. How can this (unspecified) generation be so green, if I know so many that think recycling is a BS waste of time, and refuse to?

Grocery stores bagged our *groceries in brown paper bags*, that we *reused** *for numerous things, most memorable besides household *garbage bags*, was the use of *brown paper bags as book covers *for our school books. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books. But too bad we didn't do the green thing back then.*

Anyone who knows me, knows that I hate plastic bags. When my wife and I go to the store, we always take our reusable bags with us. But I again, don't see a generational issue here. Again, it's profits that are to prime mover. Stores can get plastic bags cheaper, and they take up less space at the check stand. There is also a second point of consideration... convenience. Plastic bags are light, have a built in handle, and take up next to no space when stored (to use as a trash bag later?). Companies ate up the cost savings, and consumers largely ate up the fact that they are easier to carry than paper bags. Surprisingly, plastic bags do take less energy to produce, but take much longer to break down.

Sure plastic bags don't have as many other uses as paper bags, but recycling them has finally caught on in recent years. One odd thing I've noticed is the people who request paper AND plastic when they are being rung up. A paper bag goes in each plastic bag to create additional waste. And who are the ones that I see making this request? Older generations. Not all of them of course, but that's what my observations have shown. So please, don't tout your use are reuse of paper bags if you're needlessly encasing each one in a redundant layer of plastic.

We walked up stairs*, because we didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. *We walked to the grocery store *and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right. We didn't have the green thing in our day.

Elevators and escalators... Again, this is an issue on convenience. When they became commonplace, everyone (young and old) were using them. Personally, I prefer to take the stairs whenever possible, but malls didn't put in escalators because of one generation. They did it because it was a convenience point, and more convenient equated to more sales.

I feel it was an error to bring up cars if you're trying to espouse older generations as being greener. First off, people likely walked more for multiple reasons. Maybe it was for the exercise, maybe it was a nice day, or maybe it's because not everyone had a car back then. But one thing that is certain is that anyone that did have a car, had a less efficient one. How much of a disparity to today's cars will depend on the generation. But a big  heavy car with a huge carbureted engine is going to go through gas. When it comes to walking, I like to walk as long as the weather is good or it's not too late. As for cars, why is it that so many of those 'walkers' don't anymore (aside from age)? Maybe it's convenience again. Also, why is it that these older generations seem to gravitate to the least efficient car offerings available? This gap is reducing as cars get better on gas. But I think it's odd that this generation that is trying to be propped up as 'big mean green' seem to go out of their way to get a car that's not great on gas.

Back then, *we washed the baby's diapers *because we didn't have the throw-away kind. *We dried clothes on a line*, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts -- wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days.*Kids got hand-me-down clothes *from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right; we didn't have the green thing back in our day.

Once again, convenience, convenience, convenience. I hate disposable diapers, but everyone jumped on board because they were a time saver. Same with washing machines and driers. They do the job better and quicker. My generation adopted them, and so did many generations before mine.

Back then, *we had one TV, or radio*, in the house -- not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana . In the kitchen, *we blended and stirred by hand *because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a *fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers *to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. *We used a push mower *that ran on human power. *We exercised by working *so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she's right; we didn't have the green thing back then.

More examples of convenience winning out (except for the TV, that's just excess and personal wants). The older generations started with small TV's, but they were the first to buy the bigger and better ones. They did kitchen work by hand, but were the first to buy up electric kitchen gadgets in droves. They used a reel-type lawn mower,  but were the first to buy gas powered ones when they came out.

Styrofoam... don't get me started on Styrofoam... I fu**ing hate Styrofoam!

As for work being your exercise, for many it still is. Sure, people that work behind a desk aren't getting the workout of old, but some of us are (to varying degrees). But is this a generational fleeing of labor, or a filling of needs in an ever changing world? Information technology wasn't a job not that long ago. In fact, anything related to computers or technology would have been alien concepts of past generations.

We drank from a fountain *when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. *We refilled writing pens *with ink instead of buying a new pen, and *we replaced the razor blades in a razor*instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didn't have the green thing back then.

While drinking fountains are good, they aren't as commonplace as they would need to be to fill the hydration needs of our growing world. Remember that when they started bottling water, everyone started buying it out of convenience, not just one generation. Personally, I have reusable bottles that I car refill indefinitely. There is the initial cost of making the bottle, but by using that I can couple convenience and responsibility. 

Refilling pens... most nice pens are still refillable today. The one I carry is. But remember, all generations adopted cheap disposable pens. I don't think any of us want to get into a pissing match over writing utensil responsibility. Before pens, we used pencils that be completely used up. Before that ink quills coupled a feather and ink to draft documents. Go back further and you have berry dyes and paints on cave walls.

On razors, you can still replace the blades only to this very day. And just like so many examples, the first to adopt disposable razors (out of convenience) was the older generations, and the others then followed suit.

Back then, people took the* **streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school *or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. *We had one electrical outlet in a room*, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.

On the transportation points, I'll refer you to my earlier comments on cars. As for the proliferation of  electric outlets, supply meats demand. All those new gadgets that were being adopted had to be powered one way or another. More outlets didn't make people buy more gadgets. People having more gadgets caused a need for more power sources.

But isn't it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we older folks were just because we didn't have the green thing back then?*

I think it really depends. If you are of the older generation and refuse to recycle out of spite, I think it's criticism well deserved.  Personally, even though the older generations were the first to adopt the conveniences that we now take for granted, I don't hold them responsible lock-stock-and-barrel. As the email stated, some of the practices of old were good practices. But that will not absolve the involvement that they (and all of us) have in effecting the environment. They did some things right, and some things wrong. No generation is perfect. I don't think you can blame any one generation. But one of the generations between the gauge older generation argued and mine would probably be the most entrenched in the disposable and wasteful culture the green movement is trying to counter.

In my opinion, we are all to blame in different ways. Some generations polluted the air and water more, some created the urban plastic bag tumble-weed, some gulp electricity like water. Some people refuse to recycle, and some go out of the way to drive the biggest gas guzzler they can. But we all drank the kool-aid of convenience and cheap prices. While this 'trap' was good for the companies, it wasn't for the planet and the environment. Going green needn't mean new revolutions. Sometimes it will mean returning to the ways of the past. Lets stop pointing fingers at one generation or another and rather judge people on an individual basis, as well as work together toward a common good.

-Brain Hulk


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Monday, April 22, 2013

Disasterous advice



Ah, that's the Billy Graham we know. Giving bad advice with the smug confidence that only he can deliver. Let's take a look...
Don't live in fear of disasters, but put your trust in God

Q: I've heard a lot lately about the possibility that some day the earth (or at least human life) will be destroyed by a large meteor or asteroid. This worries me, because apparently it's happened before and we don't have any way to prevent it. Is this how the world is going to end, according to the Bible? -- J.J.

A: The Bible does tell us that someday this world will come to an end, but it won't happen because of a stray meteor or asteroid.

This doesn't mean a large meteor never could cause serious damage; after all, small ones (and occasionally larger ones) strike the earth every day, and are usually burned up in the atmosphere. Incidentally, where would we be if God hadn't provided the earth with its atmosphere as a protective shield?

But the Bible tells us that at the end of the present age, God won't only destroy the earth, but the whole universe will also be destroyed -- and then re-created and made perfect. This present world is imperfect and riddled with sin and corruption and injustice, but some day God will change all that, and everything will be made new. The Bible says, "That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness" (2 Peter 3:12-13).

Don't live in fear of disasters that may or may not happen during your lifetime. Instead, put your faith and trust in God, for He holds the world and its future in His hands. Most of all, commit your life to Christ and learn to walk with Him every day. Jesus' promise is for you: "My peace I give you" (John 14:27).

Personally I do feel that Graham is correct that a meteor won't bring an end to human life on Earth. If I were to guess, I would say that we'll kill ourselves off before that possibility comes around to snuff us out. Whether our end will come from horrible war or climate change, is still the open question. But one day our end will come. I would like to think that we'll one day leave this globe and move to new worlds. But this seems to be becoming more of a dream as governments feel that funding pointless wars or developing new (unneeded) fighter jets is a much higher priority than real space exploration.

That said, I feel Graham is wrongfully dismissing the potential threat that a large asteroid could pose. Yes, any impacts are more likely to come from smaller ones that do no damage or only localized damage. But that doesn't mean that we should write off the possibility. Yes, I did say that I don't think an asteroid will do us in. But I'm humble enough to realize I might be wrong. Astronomers are finding new space debris every day, so it stands that finding a large and threatening meteor or comet is still very much in the realm of possibility.

Because of this, it makes me glad when I read of NASA's plans to capture and tow a small asteroid into orbit so that we can examine it and test technology. This is also very important because this technology could be very useful is we every do find a large mass on a collision course with our home. This is because the solution to that threat wouldn't be to 'blow it out of the sky' like the movies tend to show, but to tow it out of harm's way. The same technology that will be used to tow that small asteroid could potentially be used to change the trajectory of an Earth-bound meteor so that it misses Earth without creating a shower of smaller debris.

Yet Graham would tell us not to worry. His God's not going to 'end everything' that way, so we don't even need to bother being prepared for that eventuality. This line of argument feels like the Biblical literalist's claim that there's no need to worry about climate change since God said he'd never send another great flood again, as I covered in an earlier post. This is just a dangerous mindset that puts way to much faith on wholly speculative claims.

Graham also claims that God put the Earth's protective atmosphere in place so that it would burn up smaller objects before they ever impact Earth. So what about Mars? Mars ' atmosphere was once very much like Earth's, and the Curiosity rover has recently shown that the red planet once had conditions that could have supported life. But if our atmosphere is so great Venus' must be even better. Because the atmosphere of Venus is so much thicker than Earth's atmosphere, it would be much more efficient at burning up debris. So why did God 'bless' such an inhospitable world with such a safety net of an atmosphere? Or why not grant Earth with an enormous helping of gravity like Jupiter's, that has been shown to fracture asteroids as they got dangerously close to the great planet? What about all the possibly habitable planets that Kepler has been finding? The simple fact is that the hospitable conditions, coupled with the protective atmosphere is what allowed life to get it's start on Earth, and eventually evolve into us. We weren't given this atmosphere. Out atmosphere was one of many things that allowed the long road that has led to us to get it's start.

Next Mr. Graham claims that God will one day destroy everything by 'destruction of the heavens by fire, and heat so hot that the elements will melt'. Um... How exactly is the entire universe supposed to go up in flames? Fire requires oxygen. Outer space is largely a vacuum. Fire could be present in
localized areas here oxygen is present (like a planet). But fire simply can't sweep the universe due to the simple lack of oxygen. Perhaps he's being confused by stars like our Sun. Sit right down Billy, because it's time for elementary school level science class... The sun, and the other stars are not on fire or comprised of fire. Stars are actually made up of what is called plasma. Instead of burning like a fire, it is powered by nuclear fusion. The immense gravity coupled with the nuclear fusion of hydrogen into helium is what drives the star. No fire, just physics at work.


The next aspect is the claim that the elements will be 'melted in the heat'. Hate to break it to you Mr. Graham, but elements can't be destroyed. Matter can not be created nor destroyed. It can be converted to another form of matter or into energy, but it can not be destroyed. So no, the elements will not, and can not just 'melt away'.

But one interesting point is for all this talk of heat and fire signaling the end of the universe, it is cold that we need to be worried about. Ever since the Big Bang, the universe has been cooling. One theory of the end of the universe is one of entropy. That the universe will continue cooling toward absolute zero and eventually suffer a heat death. So that maximum entropy is one such possible fate for our universe.

As you can see the notion that we should just live lives oblivious of potential disasters, and to just carry on like there's nothing to worry about is a silly one. There are things to worry about, probable or not. To simply claim that your erroneous holy book claims that we needn't worry is just silly and irresponsible. We need to be prepared for things that we could potentially prevent. Yet Graham would sit back and say not to worry about it. Sorry, but I'm not content to rely on a book of flaws and absurdities. Give me real scientific solutions any day.

-Brain Hulk


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Friday, April 19, 2013

An end to violence?

The JW's seem to have a knack for dropping by when no one is home. When my wife and I both worked, it wasn't as surprising that they could stop by during the day and get no answer. But my wife is home during the day now, and on the rare day that she runs out to the store for a minute, she returns home to find an issue of 'Awake!' stuffed in the door.

The cover of this addition reads 'Will violence ever end?' Even before I open the cover, I already know that what I'm about to read will be a roller coaster of irrational claims and inaccuracies. So without further ado, lets here what the JW's have to say...

The first thing the Watchtower folks do is to blame music, video games, movies, the news, and the internet. Sure, the news does seem to select sensationalized stories above everything else. But is the blame really as the followers of Jehovah would have us believe? Here in the United states, we are quite lucky for the amazing variety of media and entertainment that we have available to us. But we are not alone in that luck. Most other industrialized nations have the very same selection that we have available. So how does violence stack up between here and there?

Gun deaths per 100,00 (industrialized nations)

United States = 2.97
Switzerland = 0.77
Canada = 0.51
Finland = 0.45
Sweden = 0.41
Netherlands = 0.33
Germany = 0.19
England = 0.07
France = 0.06
Japan = 0.01


 Rape per 100,00 (industrialized nations)
 
Australia = 91.9

Sweden = 58.6
United States = 28.6
England = 27.7
France = 16.2
Finland = 12.4
Germany = 8.9
Netherlands = 8.8
Switzerland = 8.7
Italy = 7.6
Canada = 1.4
Japan = 1.1

Robbery per 100,00 (industrialized nations)

Belgium = 1,762
France = 181
England = 137
United States = 133
Sweden = 103
Canada = 96
Netherlands = 84
Switzerland = 66
Germany = 60
Norway = 37
Japan = 4

Assault per 100,00 (industrialized nations)

Scotland = 1,487
Sweden = 972
England = 730
Germany = 630
Finland = 615
Netherlands = 352
France = 310
United States = 262
Canada = 170
Switzerland = 117
Italy = 110
Japan = 44

Crime Ratio

Venezuela = 85.70
Guatemala = 84.87
Kenya = 74.30
Pakistan = 61.52
Nigeria = 60.62
Iraq = 56.25
Iran = 56.15
---------------------------------------------
United States = 53.44
France = 51.13
Italy = 49.46
England = 39.78
Netherlands = 37.53
Canada = 34.98
Sweden = 31.81
Germany = 23.86
Japan = 13.11


Looking at those stats we can see that the stats for industrialized nations are all over the place. These countries all have access to the same music, games, movies, and websites. If these factors are the driving factors of violence that the JW's are claiming them to be then we should expect the states to be high and consistent across the board. Yet we see some of these countries  with high stats, and others with low stats. I these sources of entertainment are the cause of violence the crime rates for the United States shouldn't be so consistently high, while those for Japan are so consistently low.

Then if we look at the overall crime ratios, we find that the places that are less industrialized, and have less access to media sources, are actually more violent than the countries with easy access to music, movies, and games. The truth is actually the opposite of what the Watchtower folks would have up believe. If video games cause violence, why is it that those that have poor access to games are much more violent? Likewise, how is it that the homeland of video games (Japan) looks to be one of the safest places on Earth? So if we look at the facts, it's easy to see that claiming that music, games, movies, and the internet to be the cause of violence is a less than poorly supported claim.

Awake! then goes on to claim that false religion is another cause of violence. They also share a story of a man who claims that the Bible saved him from his violent life. So is there any actual truth to back up the implied claim that Christians are less violent? Not even close. I'll ignore the past horrors of the Crusades, Inquisition, and Hitler's Nazi movement (Catholic/Christian) and instead just look to today. So , how can we see how violent, or non-violent Christians are today? Let's take a look at prison stats...

1997 Prison Population Study

Christians = 79.4% (JW = 0.9%)
Atheists = 0.2%

2012 Prison Population Study

Christians = 66.3% (no breakdown of how many are JW)
No religious preference = 10.6% (no breakdown of how many are atheist)

From looking at these stats, there is certainly nothing that suggests that Christianity (or JW) makes one a less violent person. If anything, it suggests that Christianity does nothing to deter one from violence. Then we see that there are 4.5 times as many JW's in prison as there are atheists. If one
wants to try and draw any conclusion from these stats then it would be the rejection of religion, rather than the adoption of Christianity that makes one less violent.

So, the next time you here claims about video games or lack of religion being the causes or violence, you will know better. Violence is not a punishment from the divine. Furthermore, religion is not the magic bullet that some want you to believe. So be good for the sake of being good, and stay informed at all costs.

- Brain Hulk


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Monday, April 15, 2013

Only wishful thinking

Well, it's the second week in a row without a dismantling of Billy Graham's fragile claims. In my Sunday paper he tackled the hot button issue that everyone wants a answer to. Yes, he went big and answered the biggest question of our day... 'Do you need to kneel when you pray?' I wonder if he'd humble himself and weigh in on the ongoing drama as well?

So yes, he took a question about kneeling when you pray, with your hands pressed together. How about answering if there is any point in prayer or if it even works at all. Those are much more interesting questions, so let's talk about them instead.

Does prayer work?

From personal experience, I've seen no evidence that prayer works. I don't recall any prayers being
answered when I was a believer. Some say that God doesn't answer selfish prayers, which is what you'd expect from a child like I was at the time. But the truth is that I didn't make selfish prayers. I was usually praying for others, rather than myself (other than 'Now I lay me down to sleep', many a night before bed). My most vivid memory of prayer would have to be the days leading up to me grandfather's death. I would pray and pray for his recovery, ultimately, to no avail.

I understand that some would say that God was ready for him to be with him, or that we can't understand his ways. Before anyone says that that's a bad reason for you to lose faith in prayer, let me tell you that I didn't. I actually blamed myself, not God for my prayers failure. Did I not pray well enough? Did I disappoint God in some way and was being punished? Rather than turn from God, I strove to be closer to him. But despite my past and my efforts, I can tell you that I've never witnessed a prayer being answered. True, personal experience is shaky at best, but I thought I'd share none-the-less.

Instead on relying on personal experience, lets look for something more reliable and testable. Probably the biggest study on the effects of prayer included 1,802 coronary bypass patients, at six hospitals, three churches (in different cities), and lasted a decade. The patients were broken into three groups. The first was not prayed for. The second group was told that they may or may not be being prayed for. The final group was told that they were definitely being prayed for. Of the two prayer groups, the churches were given the names and asked to pray however they normally would for the swift and complication-free recovery of the persons in those two groups.

The final findings found that the first two groups had an equal rate of post surgery complications, at 51%. The final 'prayer group' wound up with 59% of that group having complications. This notable rise may potentially be due to stress or 'performance anxiety'. They likely began to wonder how bad off they are if they have so many people praying for their recovery. Stress can be a powerful thing, an has been shown to have similar effect prior. I feel like that's an interesting result that finds contrary to
what many believers would expect to see.

The results are welcome to me, as they seem consistent with my experience (although I would have accepted them even if they found a significant trend toward prayer working). Additionally, this suggests that if you're going to pray, that it 'works' better if you pray in private.  So believers, heed this results, as well as Matthew 6:6, and pray in private. Apparently it should be 'better' for you, and would certainly be a welcome relief to me and many other non-believers who are tired of being told that they're being prayed for through the years. 

Is there any point in praying?

Personally, I'd say that there isn't. Let's put aside that fact that I don't think that there's a deity to pray to, and that I don't think that prayer works. Ignoring that, let's pretend that there is a god up there to pray to. Is there still any point in praying? Again, I'll say no. The reasons for this are two fold.

First there is the problem that God is said to be omniscient. If this is the case, then there's no reason to pray in the first place. That's because that an omniscient god already knows what you would pray for, what is bothering you, what you want, who is sick, etc. He already knows that your uncle has fallen on hard times and that you want God to bless him with luck or strength to make it through. He already knows that your daughter is sick and that you are hoping God will aid in her recovery. You see, if he knows all, he knows what you would pray for before you do, before there's a need, even before you were born. Because of this, prayer becomes an unnecessarily redundant ritual. It's kind of like telling someone that your car is red after you've already taken them for a ride in it.

God's plan is another category that messes with the whole 'prayer thing'. Some believers will tell you that God has a plan for each and every one of us. That he plans the path of our life before we are ever born. But being that this plan comes from God, it's a perfect plan. Being all powerful, all knowing, and all loving, it should be impossible for him to mess up your plan. Yet when you pray to God, you are asking him to amend his plan. It's like you're saying that you know better than the very deity you worship!

Couple that with the previous point of him being omniscient, and prayer becomes all the more futile. If you pray for something and it doesn't happen, you chalk it up to God's will. Maybe you were praying for something that wasn't part of the plan, so the prayer goes unanswered. Or maybe you pray for something that was part of the plan, an it happens so you pat yourself on the back. The thing is, if it was already part of his plan, your prayer made no difference. What was planed to happen was going to happen no matter what! With that in mind, why bother praying at all?

So we have a notion of prayer that has not been shown to work, and even defies the 'logic' of the very belief system(s) that birthed it. Yes somehow the practice hangs on... Pray if you must, wish upon a star, carry that four-leaf clover, or rub that luck rabbit's-foot. It may make you 'feel good', but that's about it.

-Brain Hulk

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Friday, April 12, 2013

Threatened forgiveness

In March I wrote a reply to a column by Billy Graham concerning the Christan god's version of forgiveness. I also posted that blog as a comment to online newspaper listings of the came column. On one of those pages a discussion  began. I'll discuss that conversation here.
It began easy enough. A discussion on what is meant by forgiveness, Christian forgiveness, and conditional forgiveness. As you can see in my earlier blog, I argued that the Christian god practices conditional forgiveness. He is said to want to forgive, yet he doesn't... not unless you are a true believer. You must believe in him and accept him unconditionally. In short, you must give him something in order to be forgiven. I argued that it is a good thing that most people do not practice conditional forgiveness. When most of us are wronged, we typically do not require an offering to forgive people in everyday life, and that is a good thing.

He then went on to opine that he feels that God's forgiveness is not conditional. That the a relationship with God is the purpose of forgiveness. I went on to say that why one forgives is a separate issue than if we do. We can forgive for selfish, as well as selfless reasons. But selfless, non-conditional forgiveness is the truest form of forgiveness. Even then, whatever your motivation for granting forgiveness, you can still choose how to forgive. Selflessly, or by asking for compensation in return for forgiveness. So motivation is a null issue.

Eventually, the claim became that Christian forgiveness wasn't conditional because he isn't requiring anything. He wants to forgive us, and is only seeking a relationship with us. But if a simple relationship is all he asks, that raises issues that most Christians would cry foul about. Chiefly, that Christians wouldn't be the only ones eligible for forgiveness. Remember that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all worship the god of Abraham. They have differences on certain issues, but all worship variations of the same god. So if a truly willing relationship is what is required, all three faiths would be in the running. Heck, you could even try and make a case for Mormonism being in the running as well. Ask a random Christian if a Muslim could go to Heaven as a Muslim, and they'd most likely flatly quash such an idea. But is a relationship with the god of Abraham  really all that is asked?

The story of the Prodigal Son was offered as an explanation. The son leaves, comes back, is welcomed with open arms, is forgiven, and all is well. It was then argued that God is simply asking the same. Return to him and be welcomed with open arms. I countered that the father's forgiveness was non-conditional, where-as God's was. He stood fast that both were non-conditional, but is that so?

No, it's not. There is the requirement to worship in addition to the desired relationship. A relationship is all well and good, but a healthy relationship doesn't require the worship of one of the individuals. I have a good relationship with my parents. I look up to and respect them. But they don't require me to bow down before them. Where a relationship can be mutually beneficial, taking the additional step of requiring worship surely pushes over the line of requiring 'payment' in order to receive forgiveness. And only if that condition is met will that be granted. To me, a god that wants to forgive wouldn't require anything from you. After all, I can forgive without asking for anything in return. Yet here we are facing a deity that requires that he is worshiped. Requiring anything for forgiveness makes it conditional forgiveness.

Of course there was then the claim that God does not require forgiveness. It is just something you will naturally and willingly want to do when you know Him. "That's what Christians believe." Ah, but there lies the rub. On some issues there are things that are universal across Christianity. Like that Jesus is the risen Lord and savior. But remember, there are many denominations of Christianity. There are things that separate them and issues on which they differ from one another. His church (like so many of the newer reformed or informal churches) probably does teach that worship isn't required... That it's a spontaneous and willing praising of His glory. Meanwhile all the churches I was a member of taught a different tale. They all taught of a god that requires worship and submission to his rules. We can ignore the 'follow the rules bit though', since forgiveness is supposed to absolve you of those infractions anyway. So the worship bit is the more important of the two.

No surprise when the 'teaching bad theology' card is pulled next. But there's a problem there. The different denominations will all point toward scripture to justify their stance on an issue, and the other church will point to different scripture to justify their stance. This happens with any number of issues. Requirements for forgiveness, if Jesus was God or his actual son, to what degree to denounce homosexuals, stance on women in the church, etc. Each differing opinion on these issues will feel justified that they are the ones that are right and base it on a verse here or there. Church A will say that church B is wrong, citing verse, and church B will say that church A is wrong, citing verse.

That is where another problem sneaks in. The reason there are differences of opinion on some issues are usually one of two. Sometimes the difference of opinion is simply to be more open and appealing to a wider audience. This is typically a non-Biblical position. The other instances arise because the Bible is not clear. What God is supposedly claiming/asking/commanding is open to the interpretation of the reader. Because of this, and the fact that many of these differing interpretations contradict, why is to say who has it 'right' (if anyone)? Somehow, 'the perfect word of God' is awful gauge and indirect. If these rules and guidelines were so desperately important, surely it should just come right out and clearly say how it is. But it doesn't... not by a long shot.

But let's pretend that we grant the relationship angle and the worship angle. Are we out of the woods yet?
Sorry, it's swampy bog this. We're still stuck in the muck with another issue. Remember, forgiveness isn't the only issue. There's also damnation. You might say 'wait wait wait, forgiveness is to avoid damnation', but is it that simple. Remember, we've reduced it to a relationship that he wants. Forgiveness that he wants to give. He wants you, and wants you to want him.

Well, how do we treat prospective relationships? If I want someone to be in a relationship with me, yet they don't notice me, I don't then punish them for that non-act... but God does. I would simply consider it the other person's loss and we would go our separate ways. Even if the other person spurned my advances and told me to piss off, I wouldn't then seek revenge. I might be miffed at first, but I'd go on my way. Not hunt the person down, stash them away, beat them regularly, throw salt on their wounds, all whiles streaming it online because they had the 'audacity' to not be in a relationship with me.

That all sounds very bold and extreme, and it is. It is also exactly what the Christian 'offer' of forgiveness is. This is not an offer. It is a threat. Believe & worship or else. An odd demand for someone who loves up and wants so very much to be with us. That is unless you consider that amassing worshipers to praise him could be the true motivation. Also, what's with the black and white Heaven and Hell. Remember, he supposedly crafted this whole scheme for us. How terribly unjust is it that every so-called 'crime' is punished equally. We wouldn't put someone to death for stealing a pack of gum, the same as a serial killer. But this twisted construct would. All or nothing, black or white, and conveniently like every good scam artist, he who created the 'ill' also holds the 'cure'. This adds injustice. We wouldn't set a killer free because he sought and gained a heartfelt relationship with the judge. But that's what Christianity promises. It doesn't matter who you are, or what you did, just pay our membership fee and we'll look the other way.

Christianity's conditional forgiveness and threats are not attractive, ethical, or even a shadow of the wondrous offer so many are told it is. So join with me and be more moral than their god, more forgiving than their god, and more honestly caring than their god.

-BH


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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Don't Rush, you'll get too warm



Just when you thing Rush Limbaugh might just disappear and his insane rantings be forgotten, he comes back with some brain zapping claim or statement that just makes you want to bang your head against a wall to try and get all the stupid out. We had one of those moments the other day when he was touting a thirteen-
year-old that he claimed had 'proved global warming is a hoax'. Here's what was said on the radio:
RUSH: You mean…? Hold it just second. Alex, you’re at the health food store, and it’s cold out there. It’s March. You’re there in March, it’s cold, and two people in there are surprised that it’s cold because it’s global warming outside?

CALLER: Exactly.

RUSH: And they still concluded, “Well, we’re still in global warming”?

CALLER: Yes.

RUSH: But they were shocked. This is hilarious. You know, Alex, there are none so blind as those who will not see, and that’s what you’re running up against. Where did you find this evidence? How hard was it for you to research?

CALLER: It wasn’t that hard to learn it. There is pretty much a lot of evidence that you can find. I personally just went to the local library and looked up books. That’s what I did.

RUSH: You went to the library?

CALLER: Yeah.

RUSH: You didn’t use a computer?

CALLER: No, I didn’t. Well, yeah, my mom got me one article from the computer. Yeah.

RUSH: Wow. I’m surprised you find evidence of this at the library. That’s heartening. Why did you want to do this? What made you doubt the people who believe that there’s global warming?

CALLER: Well, over the radio we listen to different things. I’ve heard lots of evidence that man-made global warming is a hoax. And since I’m doing speeches, I thought it was a very interesting topic. I want to learn more about this. I guess I just always doubted that. There’s so much evidence that global warming is not man-made.
It's ironic that Rush mentions those that the are 'none so blind as those who will not see', because that's exactly who he and this kid are.

For the one millionth time Rush, some cold weather in the Spring or Summer does not disprove climate change. Climate isn't about one isolated weather event here, and a cold day there. It is concerned with the long term trends (not a day or a week), and it is focused on world-wide averages (not one town or region). A cold day when it's usually warm no more disproves climate change than one isolated record high proves it. These data points are too small and too isolated to glean anything useful from them. When we see that no month month since April of 1985 has been below the global average, we see a trend toward warming. When you see that 12 of the hottest years on record have been in the last 15 years, you see a trend toward warming. When the ice in the Arctic is receding

Also, why is it that colder than normal weather in April somehow tells Rush that climate change is fake, yet a 60°F day in February is just dismissed as something that happens every now and then? As I've stated,
neither is a meaningful piece of data in and of themselves. But at least try to stay consistent for crying out loud!You might as well claim that rain is a hoax since it was clear and sunny today...

Then there's the strange correlation drawn that 'it's in a book, that means it's true'. I have no doubt that you can find books that dismiss climate change. Given how much money that the oil industry pumps into denial, I'm surprised there's not more. But I find it odd that Rush has equated 'it's in a book' to equal, 'there you go, it's true'. There are also books about the fact that climate change is actually happening. But since he thinks climate denial books somehow make the undeniable case that there is no global warming, what about other books?

There are books that claim that the Earth is flat. There are books that claim that the Geocentric model of the solar-system is true (yes, still...). There are books that said that the Holocaust was a good thing, There are other books that actually claim it never happened. There are diet books that say you can eat whatever you want and still lose inches in no time at all. I could go on, but I think I've illustrated the point that something being in a book does not automatically make it so.

So with all this info out there, how do we determine what is good info and what is bad info? That's actually pretty easy... We test it! And that's exactly what science does. We test and study the data and see where it takes us. When that is done in the case of climate, we see that the Earth is warming, and at a faster rate than is has in the past. A rate that just happens to coincide with the greenhouse gasses we are pumping into the air. When you actually look at the facts, rather than what you want to be true, the simple truth is that climate change is very real, and that we are certainly playing a role.

Finally it's odd that the kid is saying how easy it was to find sources against climate change. Sure, if you're looking for sources to support your pre-held stance, you're going to find them (valid or not). But if you are looking with an open mind and at all the information, the anti-warming articles would be buried under a mountain a articles that show the truth of climate change. Of peer-reviewed papers from 1991 to 2012, only 24 reject global warming. How many concluded in favor of climate change in that same period. Oh, only 13,926! That's more that just lopsided! Deniers want to claim that it's an issue that's still up in the air, and that there's still a lot of scientific debate, and far from a consensus.

However, the facts say otherwise. The data all points to climate change is real. The evidence strongly suggests we are playing a role. And the overwhelming majority of experts agree that global warming is here, and it's happening. So Rush (and 13-year-old-kid), stop making the same tired arguments that have been dispatched time and time again. Stop trying to avoid the truth that we hold at least some blame. Stop trying to avoid the responsibility and the fact that we may have to change the way we do things and live our lives to some degree. The easy way isn't always the right way after all. And stop pandering to those who will pay you off (big oil) so they can avoid change and keep profits up. This is a serious issue. Far too serious that personal agendas and profit should be allowed to come first. So I ask that everyone speak out against these ridiculous claims  that people like Rush make. And join me in trying little by little to be more kind to our planet.

-BH


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Monday, April 8, 2013

I didn't change, your mind did.

Sorry, no reply to Billy Graham today. We were actually faced with the curious phenomenon of him actually giving proper advice! Someone wrote in and asked if it was okay to cheat on their income taxes, and Mr. Graham rightly told them the correct answer that, no it's not okay to cheat on your tax return. I'm not even going to try and guess why someone thought it was a good idea to write in to a religious advice/question column to ask about a tax question, but I will give credit where credit is due. Billy earns a gold star this week and escapes my criticism for at least until next week.

Instead, I'd like to talk about another very curious phenomenon. Many non-believers may have found
themselves faced with it at some point in their non-theistic lives. If you're like me, there was a point where you didn't believe any longer, but no one knew that you didn't believe. Eventually, as time went by you decided to let that cat out of the bag. Upon revealing this news, how did the receiving party react? One that is certain is that the reactions can vary quite widely.

Personally, I've had it pretty easy thus far. When I told my parents, my father didn't really seem phased, whereas my mother took it okay with slight disappointment, mainly concerned with me telling the rest of the family (which I haven't yet). My brother... No surprise from him. Actually, it turned out he had doubts as well. My wife knew from day one, so no issues there. The biggest reaction I got was from friends.

The first friend that found out was very surprised. In fact, she wanted to know what had happened to cause this change (she assumed I was a Christian since I'm 'so nice and honest'). I was forced to tell her the truth... that nothing had changed. I had actually been an atheist since before we ever met. After that, everything returned back to normal. Most other friends have responded the same way.

Though many haven't been as lucky as I. On an atheist community I'm a member of, we've heard all manner of terrible stories. The reactions I wish to talk about are the ones where upon learning that you area non-believer, the recipient of this news acts as if they have no idea who you are anymore, they no longer trust you, and quite simply, their entire opinion and perception changes in one brief moment.

This really is quite sad, and highlights the shortcomings of the person jumping to such an absurd reaction, rather than the now out of the closet non-believer. The thing that these people don't realize is that you didn't change... only their perception of you has. It would be nice if everyone could be like the friend that I mentioned, and realize that I am still me. That I haven't changed one bit. But the sad fact is that many believers have been conditioned to distrust non-believers. Some have been convinced that we're immoral, deceptive, evil, and under the control of Satan/demons. Quite ridiculous really, but that's the truth we face.

But the simple fact is that what these people have been conditioned to believe is just plain wrong! You have to let them know that you are still the same person you've always been. You are still trustworthy. You are still honest and caring. And that you still love them the same as you always have. When a family member 'fires' you from your babysitting gig, that shows that they are very close-minded and for some reason ignore what their own eyes are telling them in order to try and fall into the picture painted by their priest or church. If a parent hears this news and instantly revokes your curfew out of distrust, or accuses you of Satan worship or drug use, it shows that they aren't paying attention as a parent. That they are valuing a false and fabricated perception over reality.

If a friend's attitude suddenly changes, or they disassociate from you, this shows that they were never real friends to begin with. A true friend will like you for who you are. Them learning the true of your non-belief shouldn't change that if they liked you for you. This is also true with romantic relationships. I've heard of girlfriends, boyfriends and fiances leaving their significant others, or suddenly have their attitudes change towards them once they learned that they do not believe. Again, this tells me that they didn't truly truly love you for you. After all, you didn't change. It's their biased view of you that has changed.

It really is quite sad that this issue actually exists. That religions can cause such division is sickening. Why reduce people to less then they were when you find that they don't hold the same belief as you? They are not suddenly sub-human. They are the same friend, brother, sister, lover, etc they were yesterday. Everything you liked about them yesterday is still true today. So lets move to stop playing these divisive games, judge people by their merits and live happier, more harmonious lives.

-BH

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Friday, April 5, 2013

Here lies religion...

Death. Eventually we all die, and some of us fear that greatly. Luckily I am among those that do not fear the inevitable day that I cease to be. The reasons for that are many, but that's not what I want to talk about today. Rather, lets talk about what happens to our bodies after we die. I for one have donated my body to science, and will then be cremated. However, many still opt for a traditional burial in a casket and a headstone. This is a practice I do not understand, and actively moved to avoid with my decision. A plot ties you down to one location... well, not you, since you'll be dead. But it forces those that want to 'visit' you to either stay in that area, or make a trek when they come to remember you. Scatter my ashes, keep them, launch them into space... I won't care. I feel it's better to remember ones memory, rather to fixate on a body buried in a box.

Lets fill the land of the future with parks rather than the dead.

Actually, I see cemeteries as a profound waste of space. In fact, other than a body being buried free of containment in order to decompose and return to the Earth, I see cemetery burial to be wasteful. A plot of land is left to forever contain your slowly decomposing remains. The plot itself is usually quite expensive, as well as the marker which an range from basic to elaborate. So there is a large initial investment that is usually left to those you left behind. And there is the problem of available plots becoming fewer and fewer in number. When I see a graveyard, I see unnecessary waste. Yes, the markers can be interesting works or art, and the grounds can sometimes look as if it's also a beautiful garden.

I fully realize that there is an emotional aspect at play as well. But I don't feel that this fact necessitates the existence of expansive cemeteries. You don't need that physical place where the body lays in order to remember your loved one. To me, that head stone and ever still body focuses on death... that they are gone. Isn't it better to return to a loved ones favorite place and remember them there. Or to just sit back and remember the fond memories of the deceased's life. To focus on the positives of their life, rather than the negative of their death.

Then there's the curious fact that so many churches also keep a graveyard on the grounds. This really is an interesting question. Christianity looks at the body as a vessel for the soul, and opines that the soul is what makes you, you. The soul matters, and the body is but a necessity in this physical world. That we will cast off the body when we ascend into the next life. So if the sole is considered THE thing, and the body is simply a necessary containment vehicle, why the graveyards? Cemeteries are for bodies after all, and under Christianity you (the soul) leave the body when you die. So the body isn't really 'you' anymore... actually, it never was. It was only holding 'you'. So why honor an anonymous construct of flesh? Technically, it can't be to horror the passed, since the body that would be buried there wouldn't be the deceased.

Under the sole = you construct, a body in a church graveyard would be like honoring a car to in remembrance of  the first tank of gas that you ever ran through it. To me, it feels like the churches recognized the emotional need for people to have a place to remember their loved ones. So why not provide one and make a profit to boot? Maybe that's the case, and maybe not. I suppose that it's more likely that the church once again failed to recognize the incompatibility of that practice with their beliefs. But that's a question that only they can answer.

Of course, the brain and it's functions are what make us who we are, not a 'soul'. What makes us who we are does not leave us at death, but rather dies along with our body. So I ask that we make the responsible choice to spur cemetery burials and opt for cremation instead. Lets not focus on death and loss, and instead remember the joys of life and love. Life may eventually end for us all, but lets gasp it and recognize it as that beautiful gift that it is.

-BH


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Monday, April 1, 2013

Billy Graham: Missing the obvious since 1918



Another paper, another ridiculous column by Billy Graham. Actually, Based on the content, I think that this was supposed to run yesterday, and not today. This isn't surprising coming from our local paper, but that's beside the point... On to silly Billy!

Billy Graham: Let the facts of Jesus' life and death erase your doubts

Q: I want to believe in Jesus, but I just can't bring myself to do it. Some of my Christian friends tell me that all I need to do is to have faith, but how can I have faith in something I'm not even sure is true? Is faith just a blind leap in the dark, like some people say? -- R.H.

A: If a "blind leap in the dark" means believing in Jesus without having any evidence to support your faith, then your faith may not last. I don't doubt your friends' sincerity, but God has given us solid reasons to believe in Jesus, and I hope you'll discover them for yourself.

Tomorrow, millions of Christians will celebrate the most startling event in human history -- the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. You probably know the background: His enemies had decided to destroy Him, and He was condemned to die in the cruelest way possible, by being nailed to a cross. Hours later, there could be no doubt He was dead; the Roman soldiers confirmed it, and His body was taken down and placed in a cave-like tomb, its entrance sealed by a large stone.

But on the third day, some women came to the tomb and discovered the stone had been rolled away and the tomb was empty! By the power of God, Jesus had been raised from the dead, and during the next 40 days He appeared repeatedly to His followers, including more than 500 at one time (see 1 Corinthians 15:1-8).

Why do I focus on Jesus' resurrection? Because it wasn't a myth or legend; it really happened! And once you understand this, your doubts will fade. And you will find yourself saying with Thomas, who once had been filled with doubt, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28).
First off, I'll answer the readers question. Yes, you pretty much have the right idea about faith. Religious faith certainly is belief without evidence or proof. In fact, if you talk to some believers, they will tell you that if there was definitive proof, there would be no need for faith. That belief through faith is superior in God's eye than belief through confirmed facts. Me, I like facts. But if I were to believe through faith alone, how would I choose which religion to guess was the right one to try and put faith in? Evidence and proof are the sure fir ways to help make that choice... But religion tends no to like that path because a reasoned approach leaves all deities excluded from consideration.

Ah, but Billy says that there ARE solid reasons to believe in Jesus. Whoa, whoa, whoa... Please stop the presses and tell me more! "Why do I focus on Jesus' resurrection? Because it wasn't a myth or legend; it really happened!" Seriously!? Surely, he mush be joking!   ...Nope, that really is all he offers. RH isn't sure if Jesus is real, and wants evidence, and your answer is simply, 'yup, it's all true'. I don't know if he realizes it or not, but he did not answer the question, nor offer proof for Jesus. He simply asserts it and leaves it at that. Sorry, but that won't cut the mustard.

All Graham offers as 'proof' is the resurrection story. Talk about an amazingly basic error! If Jesus is in question, that is not proof. The resurrection story comes from the Bible. The Bible is the origin of the entire story and claims of Jesus. If Jesus is in question, the Bible is too. You can not claim the Bible as proof for Jesus any more than you can claim that Amazing Fantasy #15 is proof that Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider, and now fights crime in New York as the Amazing Spider-Man.

You simply can't offer the Bible up as proof for the Bible. That's like writing a report that says that time traveling aliens helped America win the revolutionary war, and then listing your own report in the works cited page of your report. If you did that, what kind of grade do you think you would get? You would rightly get a failing mark, yet Billy Graham is expecting you to grant the Bible/Jesus an exemption.

What is a Muslim offered the Qur'an as proof of Muhammad's midnight ride and that he was the true prophet of God/Allah? Somehow, Graham and your average Christian would reject that 'evidence', but still claim that the Bible proves Jesus. Are they blind, or disingenuous? Because both parties are making the exact same claim. It would be no different than if I cited the Norse beliefs as proof that Thor killed the Midgard Serpent, Jormungandr at Ragnarok. What if a Mormon cites the book of Mormon as proof that their beliefs are true. What is we were is claim that the Egyptian book of the dead proves the ongoing conflict between Horus and Set?

Christians would reject these claims, and rightly so. However, their claim that the Bible proves stories in the Bible falls square in the same category as the others. There is one thing that they are all missing, and that's external proof. There is no contemporaneous proof that Thor existed, slayed the serpent, or that Ragnarok even occurred. Likewise, the Bible is the only source we have for Jesus. Seeing as it is the text that first proposes Jesus, it can't be used as proof of Jesus. The Romans kept good records, yet there is no record of Jesus. He was said to be doing miracles, had followers, and rose from the dead, yet no one wrote about it. Are we to expect that someone doing such amazing things simply went unnoticed? Then there's the fact that the stories in the Bible were decided on by committee, weren't written by people who cold have known him first hand, and were written well after the time he was supposed to have lived. That leaves the Bible as not only the only source for Christ, but a horribly unreliable source at that!

But even if it had been written a the time, It couldn't be used as proof of Jesus in and of itself. The additional sources needed are still staggeringly lacking. Personally, I wouldn't be surprised if Jesus was based off of one of the many religious teachers of the day. But the lack of any history tells me that if there was someone he was based on, he was just a man like all the others preaching their own message. That's means no copy-cat of Mithra. No miraculous Winter Solstice birth, and no death only to be resurrected for the Spring Equinox.

So no Mr. Graham, you didn't offer proof. You only begged the question. You claim that the Bible proves Jesus, and I'll be forced to counter that the Doctor saved Earth from the Daleks in 'The Stolen Earth', thwarted the Weeping Angels in 'Blink', and defeated the Master in 'The End of Time'. You may have a book, but I have video 'evidence'! The Bible is no more proof of Jesus, than Doctor Who is proof that our favorite Time Lord is protecting all of space and time in his TARDIS.

So RH, please ignore Mr. Graham. He obviously doesn't know of what he speaks, or simply doesn't care to be genuine or consistent. Base what you believe on evidence, not faith. For that is the way that has shown results through the years. Plus it allows you to be open to new information, rather than sticking your fingers in an attempt to drown out everything else. RH, press on the path of reasoned belief, for it is the honest one and can open you up to all sorts of new discoveries. Do that and you will not be disappointed.

-BH

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