Friday, May 31, 2013

One little, two little, three little inbred generations...

The grand diversity of life. It's something that evolution explains beautifully well. Yet, in full view of the overwhelming evidence, there are still those that subscribe to a literal interpretation of Genesis. However, such an interpretation can not explain the diversity that we see in the world. If the Bible is true, then all life is descended first from initial pairings at the time Adam and Eve. But to make things worse, the reset button of Noah's flood brings the problem closer.

A literal reading of Genesis places the flood about 4,361 years ago. First, the Bible argues that all of humanity (and all other life) multiplied to populate the Earth is just 1,656 years (give or take). That's about sixteen hundred years of incestual relations. Such a history of inbreeding would be far from healthy for a population. But after that, the Bible throws another genetic bottleneck into the works.

The world-wide flood that was supposedly only survived by Noah, his family and the animals on board would have caused a need for inbreeding to populate the Earth a second time. There's the obvious problem with where the multitude of different races came from, and since they tend to deny evolution, they can't use that to save them from their absurd belief. Also, population would be a problem. Assuming mortality rates, and plagues throughout history, there's simply no accounting for the current worldwide population of 7,088,420,000+ (and climbing) from one family a little over 4,000 years ago.

But more importantly, there's the health issues that would result. Inbreeding leads to a far less diverse gene pool. This narrowing of the available genes can and does have adverse health consequences. Without fresh genes, shortcomings go unchecked. If hemophilia runs in a population or family, and they only reproduce between one another then that condition would go unchecked, and spread unabated. This is also why you see common health problems within pure-bred dogs. One species may be predisposed to hip problems. Some almost always develop bad eye-sight. Others are almost guaranteed to go deaf. These are all problems that may have been avoided if the gene pool the offspring were born from were more diverse.

Inbreeding can adversely effect fitness, cause physical deformities, restrict brain development, result in defective immune systems and the passing on of negative traits. If the human population, and the populations of every other species were the result of 4,000 years or inbreeding, the world would be much different than the one we see everyday. It would be a much more sickly world with a much higher mortality rate. So you and I are actually prime examples of the fact that the Biblical account is far from correct. The facts support the case for evolution over great expanses of time. This much is certain. It's also certain that the Bible gets it wrong once again. No surprise there.

-Brain Hulk

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Monday, May 27, 2013

With imaginary friends like these, who needs imaginary enemies?

To start the next century of posts, we once again have Billy Graham spouting nonsense. This week, a questioner asks about the devil... If he's real, just a symbol, and why he keeps fighting God. Per-usual, Graham answers as poorly as he usually does.
God's judgement is certain: Satan will not triumph

DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: Why does the devil keep fighting against God? Hasn’t he figured out that he’s going to be defeated someday, so why does he bother? Or is the “devil” just a symbol for evil, so that what we call “the devil” isn’t actually real? — T.N.

DEAR T.N.: I can assure you that the devil is real; he isn’t an imaginary figure or just a symbol for evil. Evil is real, and so is Satan, for ultimately all evil can be traced back to him.

Why does the devil keep on fighting, in spite of the fact that the Bible says he’s a defeated foe whose power will someday be destroyed? One reason is because he doesn’t really believe what God says. In fact, the very first question in the Bible came from the devil, who denied what God had told Adam and Eve and declared instead that God had lied to them (see Genesis 3:1-4). Satan’s very nature is to lie and distort the truth, and apparently he thinks God does the same. But he is wrong.

There may be another reason why the devil keeps fighting, and that is because he does gain victories. Whenever someone gives in to temptation, Satan has gained a victory. Whenever someone rejects Christ and turns their back on God, Satan has gained a victory. Don’t let this be true in your life! Instead, make sure of your commitment to Christ by repenting of your sins and giving your life to him today.

Satan, however, is a defeated foe, for someday God will intervene, all evil will be destroyed, and Christ will reign forever and ever. God’s judgment is certain: “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).
TN, the Devil is just as real as God. To clarify, that means they're both imaginary! There is no more reason to worry about the struggle between God and Satan, then you have to worry about the struggle between Superman and Lex Luthor. At least the latter could be entertaining on occasion...

But Billy says that God and the Devil are very real, of course. But then he makes the odd claim that all evil can be traced back to Satan... Come again! All evil? I really don't think so... In the Bible, God routinely commanded genocide. Examples include Deuteronomy 2:34, Deuteronomy 3:6, Deuteronomy 7:2, Deuteronomy 7:16, Deuteronomy 13:15, Deuteronomy 20:16-17, Joshua 6:21, Joshua 10:40, and 1 Samuel 15:2-3. Common themes are to kill everyone in the towns. Men, women, children, and sometimes even the livestock. Sometimes, it was even ordered to tear open the pregnant women and to dash the children on rocks! The virgin women were sometimes spared though, as the invaders were then allowed to take them for their own. How quaint... Invade, kill everyone and then take a woman as a prize of war for you to rape as you see fit. If that's not evil, I don't know what is. The above doesn't even touch on the story of Noah's flood, which goes a long way to showing how absurd the Bible is, as well as paint a picture of an evil sadistic God.

What about God's 'punishment' for a man that rapes a woman who was a virgin and not engaged? (Deuteronomy 22:28-29) Oh, he has to pay the girls father 50 shekels of silver, and has to marry her for life... If short, the raped woman is forced to marry her rapist. In my book, that's pretty damn evil.
God also doesn't have much of a problem with slavery. Rather than abolishing slavery in Exodus,  God instead lists rules of who can be a slave, and how badly you're allowed to beat your slaves. Pure evil!

Witchcraft? Exodus 22:18 says that "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Maybe you don't take that command seriously  anymore, but some still do. In third world countries, people are still putting women do death by this 'divine' command. Yes, in the twenty-first century we have people being stones and burned to death for the imaginary crime of witchcraft! And all because God told them too. Sounds pretty evil to me.

There's also the issue of God's book treating woman like property and second class citizens. Be it selling daughters (Exodus), offering daughters up for rape to an angry mob (Genesis), requiring wives to submit to their husband (Ephesians, Colossians, 1 Peter), women must learn in silence (1
Timothy), women must not teach (1 Timothy), men are superior to women (1 Timothy), etc. You could argue if such misogyny is evil, but I think such ugly ides are enough to warrant a place here.

I could go on and on about more evils of the Bible. But I'll stop here on that point. Now, the believer may claim that it's still all Satan's fault because of original sin. Bull! God is supposed to be omniscient and omnipotent. So when he set up his little apple trap, he already knew what the outcome would be. He had the power and foresight to change the outcome, but instead chose to sit back and do nothing. It's almost like he wanted it to happen that way. Well, he did (as the story goes) put two people that didn't poses the knowledge of good and evil with a tree that would grant them the knowledge of good and evil, and then went on to punish them for eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil even thought they would not have known it was good or bad to disobey God until after they ate the fruit that they were told not to eat.

But even if we grant the ridiculous claim that God's hands are clean in regard to 'original sin', that still doesn't wash away the evils God demanded. A town is sinful because of sin, so God demanding they all be killed is okay? No, no it's not! Remember the adage that two wrongs don't make a right? Well in this situation, Satan can be argued as the one responsible for the town's state. But he can't be lamed for the evil of God's demanded genocide on said town. He could just let the town destroy it's self from the inside, send people to teach to town how they should be, or even just erase the sin. But jumping straight to genocide is never okay, and is always evil.

Graham also says that the devil does not believe what God says. I'm right there on that one. I don't believe what God supposedly says on many a topic. Oh, and I also don't believe he exists at all. The devil also thinks that God lies? Well, in the Bible he does lie by proxy and utilize deception. But most importantly, the theology of Christianity (and other religions) is one big lie in and of it's self!

He closes by saying that Satan is a defeated foe, and that one day Jesus will destroy him and evil will be no more... So why the long wait then? If the goal is to defeat evil, just go ahead and do it already! If you're promising to end wickedness, you best well do so. (and if you're going to make up a promise, at least do like Thor and promise something you can easily claim credit for) The reason the status quo remains is because it's all just a big fantasy. It's like a TV show that teases you with a plot point season after season after season, but never actually delivers so that you'll keep coming back in hopes that it'll be different this time around. That's what's going on here. God/Jesus has it all under control... There is this Satan guy trying to cock up all these great plans, but don't worry, it's all under control. But you better join up before Satan gets put in his place. It could happen any day now, and we'd hate for you to miss the boat to salvation. Sign your life away to us here and now! In short its a ploy used as a power grab.

Satan is not real, nor is God. Yet the Biblical God has killed far more in the Bible than Satan is said to, yet is somehow considered good and just... Luckily neither is real, because it would be a much scarier world if Satan (according to Christians) and the vengeful, genocidal, tyrant that is the Christian God were real. Now THAT is a relief!

-Brain Hulk

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Friday, May 24, 2013

Instant atheist: Just add knowledge

Okay, maybe not instant in all cases. My deconversion certainty wasn't. With this being my one-hundredth entry, I thought I'd share the story of how I went from just another Christian to thr free-thinking atheist I am today.

Many believers think that I must have had something terrible happen to me to cause me to 'turn from God'. Others claim that I'm going through a phase, or that I'm simply 'angry with God'. None of these are true though. The truth is that I've actually had a pretty uneventful life. No terrible Earth-shattering happening to crack my faith. I can't be angry with God either, as I don't believe in his existence. I can no more be angry with God, than you can be angry with the Easter Bunny. Rebellious phase? Nothing of the sort! So, how is it that I lost my faith then.

I can tell you that it wasn't anything that happened all of a sudden. There was no ah-ha moment like those that the religious like to throw around stories of. In my case, it was a slow process that I was unaware of until after it had happened. Allow me to explain...

When I was younger, I was a Christian. Catholic to be more specific. I was a believer through and through, and didn't question the things that i now can't believe I once accepted on mere say-so. So was it that I didn't want to believe? The exact opposite actually. My path to atheism was paved with my wanting to believe and the will to prove that belief as justified. I'd say that it all started when I started learning about things that didn't match up with the Bible. Ideas or facts that simply didn't jive with what I was taught in CCD or in church on Sundays. I was in of the mindset that if there was a contradiction between the church's teachings, and those from another source, it was automatically the church's that were correct, and the other that was doubted.

And that's where it all started. I can't remember what it was exactly, but the start was when I learned or heard about something that was in contradiction to what the Bible said on the matter. One day I decided to prove the Biblical view once and for all. So I pulled out my Bible and started reading. But a funny thing happened. As I read, I was left more confused than assured. The Bible that is talked about in study and church is very different that the actual Bible when you actually stop to read it. There are all manner of shocking stories that you will never hear about in your weekly service. But while I was left seeing a different Bible, I still opined that it's words were the truest of them all. Looking back now, I would say that reading the Bible with an open mind is one of the easiest ways to 'make' and atheist. But consider that I was reading to confirm my beliefs, yet my intellectual honesty still found a way through and in hindsight, probably planted seeds of doubt.

So, Bible read, my next step was to read up on the things that I automatically rejected, so that I could show where these counter-claims failed. And so I did just that. I dug into these topics with a ruthless desire to discredit them. But a funny thing happened... The more I looked into them, the more sense they made. But they didn't just make sense, they also had evidence to back everything up. I was left having to accept that these things were true if I was going to remain honest with myself. At first, I would go back to the Bible and try and twist an turn passages to make these new conclusions fit. But the more I learned the less that became possible. I continued going back and re-reading the Bible with an open mind, and one day it dawned on me that I no longer believed.

I didn't know when it happened. When it actually was that I had lost my faith, but it happened and in that moment I knew I no longer believed in God. Yet I was still a few years away from identifying as an atheist. If pressed, I probably would have told you that I wasn't religious. Quite frankly, I didn't know that I was an atheist. That's because the time or two I'd heard the word, it was pinned in the same breath as devil worship. For years, I took the word 'atheist' to mean something it didn't.  Leave it to the church to make up definitions... Then one day I happened across another atheist that self identified as such. I remembered the term, but this time I actually looked it up. At the moment that I saw that an atheist is simply someone who lacks belief to a god/gods, I realized the fact that I had been an atheist for some time now. I simply didn't realize that my position on religion had such a title.

As you can see, my deconversion was anything but a simple and sudden one. It started with a defense of my religion, and ended up with me disbelieving in the religion I once clung to. Reading the Bible played a roll, but so did good old fashioned learning. Knowledge really is the greatest threat to religious faith. You don't even need to be a logical genius. In my opinion, being honest and open-minded are enough. If I can come to non-belief by way of trying to bolster my belief, that should tell you something. While atheism was not my intended goal, I must say that I'm quite pleased with the final result. My eyes have been opened to an amazing and beautiful world, and I intend to make the most of it.

-Brain Hulk

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Is one piece of proof really so much to ask?

Sometimes believers will ask why atheists ask for 'so much proof' to believe in God (the Christian one of course). But the simple truth is that we don't ask for the mass of proof that they claim we do. Actually, one knock-down piece of proof is all that it would take for most. However, no such proof exists. When I tell a believer this, the usual response is that the Bible is all the proof needed.

But when we say that the Bible is not proof that the Christian God is real, the believer will often be  confused as to why the Bible does not count as proof. The Bible is not proof for the same reasons that the holy books of other religions are not proof of those religions to a Christian. They presumably don't think that the existence of the Egyptian Book of the Dead is proof of Horus, Set or the the multitude of other gods within. Why not? They probably don't believe that the Norse myths aren't proof of Odin, Thor, or the paradise of Valhalla. Why not? They could do the same dance with every religion. When the believer understands why they don't recognize all the other religions (ofter even older than Christianity) with holy books of their own, they will begin to see why the Bible is not proof of the god of the Bible.

They may say that without God, we wouldn't have the Bible. But we could equally say that without the Bible, we wouldn't have that god on the table to begin with. Arguing that the Bible (which introduced God) is proof of God because it says it's the word of God is circular reasoning. By that 'logic' one is forced to accept every religion because 'it says it's true right here'. So anyone could theoretically write a book (the older the better ) that says that it is the word of Steve. Steve is a great guy that turns everything he touches into a book, and that the book you're reading used to be one of
his socks. Therefor, Steve, the magic book man is real!

But it's not that easy in reality now is it? It would be silly to believe in magic Steve because a book says he is real, and is itself proof of his power. What is needed is proof that the book's claims are true. That is where the Bible fails spectacularly. There is the odd historical reference present, but there is far more in there that is historically false. For the sake of streamlining the conversation, I won't even get in to the many absurdities present as well. The important fact is that the Bible is not actual first person historical accounts. Most (if not all) of the books authorship is unknown, and most were recorded so far removed from the events they describe, that the authors could never have witnessed these events themselves. Without external confirming evidence, this leaves the texts as hearsay at best. Read honestly, it is obvious that the Bible is not the word of some god, but the writings of primitive people that didn't understand the world around them.

On occasion, the believer will actually claim that the Bible's human authorship proves it's authenticity. But is that really so? The Egyptian Book of the Dead was written by men, so does that make it authentic? The Norse, Greek and Celtic beliefs were recorded by men, so does that make them authentic? Why the special pleading for the Bible above the others?

Because the Bible ends up with Jesus of course! However, this caveat does no more than reveal a huge error in their reasoning. One can only draw that as an important distinction if they already accept Christianity as true. If you don't already believe, then Jesus being the last big thing in the Bible is of no importance. The Norse would tell you that their beliefs all pointed toward Ragnarok, and the second life in Valhalla. Is that enough to leave the Christian now sold on the Norse traditions?

Additionally, Jesus is in the Qur'an as well. Islam is pretty much the new new testament, thought they say that Jesus was but a human prophet and not actually God on Earth. So the Qur'an has Jesus AND leads to Muhammad as well. So why not believe in Islam instead?

Before one puts too much emphasis on Jesus, perhaps they should consider the fact that he has never been confirmed to exist either. To do that we would need confirming contemporaneous accounts of his existance. Something that is oddly lacking for someone that was supposedly so special.

But to answer the original question... atheists don't ask for an unreasonable amount of proof to believe. One good piece will do it. Perhaps the real question isn't 'why do atheists ask for so much proof', but rather 'why do believers ask for so little'.

-Brain Hulk

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Like a good neighbor?

This week we're faced with Billy Graham giving good advice only to bottle it right at the end. Let's take a look...
Reach out to neighbors from another country

DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: We’d like to be friendly toward a family that moved into our apartment building a few months ago, but they’re from a foreign country and have a different religion, and we’re not sure what to do, if anything. Any suggestions? — V.B.
 First, I must say that VB's question is rather shocking. They claim that they want to be friends, but are allowing religion to stand in the way. Such a reason is rather silly. It feels like treating those of a different religion as if they are some sort of spooky boogie-man. Sorry, but allowing that to be such a barrier makes me wonder if the desire for friendship is genuine. Because someone just having a different religion shouldn't be a barrier at all.
DEAR V.B.: By all means, don’t ignore this family. It’s tragic when people from other countries come here to study or work, and end up feeling no one cares about them or wants to be their friend.

Instead, do all you can to reach out to them and let them know you care and want to help them. In other words, the most important thing you can do is to be friendly! After all, if you were in their situation, wouldn’t you feel lonely and want someone to be your friend?

What can you do? Begin by calling on them (perhaps with a little gift of food, or small toys for their children. Avoid, however, anything that might be misunderstood, such as food they wouldn’t eat in their culture or toy weapons.). Offer to help them with transportation, or babysitting, or make suggestions about places to shop. Don’t overwhelm them, but do ask God to help you be their friend.
Aside from the pointless 'ask God to help you be their friend', this is surprisingly good advice coming from Mr. Graham. If they really do want to be friends, they should act like it. Be friendly and see what they can do to be helpful and welcoming. So on this excerpt I have to agree will Graham. It doesn't happen often, but credit where credit is due.
Remember Jesus’ words in what we often call the Golden Rule: “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12).
 Jesus' Golden Rule? The Golden Rule was far from a new idea when Jesus reportedly said it.

What  about Confucius?  "Do not impose on others what you do not desire others to impose upon you." -500BCE

Herodotus? " if I choose I may rule over you. But what I condemn in another I will, if I may, avoid myself." -430BCE

In fact, Buddhist, Hindu, Zoroastrian and Greek, all had versions of the rule long before Jesus' version was placed in the Bible. In my opinion, Confucius' version is actually superior to Jesus' as well as being much older. Jesus says to do to others as you'd like done to you. So what if the 'you' is a masochist? Jesus' rule would suggest that this person should project their likes on others, ever though most other will not share in his preferences. Meanwhile, Confucius asks not to do to others what you would not wish others do to you. No one wants to be killed in cold blood, so don't. No one wants their belongings stolen, so don't steal from someone else.
In addition, ask God to help you reach out to them the same way he has reached out to us — in love and understanding and compassion. Seek to understand their needs, and learn more about their country and its customs. Most of all, ask God to give you opportunities to share the good news of Jesus Christ with them, both by your words and your example. 
And after on otherwise good answer, Billy erases it all with the final paragraph. If they want to be friends with their new neighbors, trying to convert them is not the answer. If you want to annoy them,  then go right ahead and proselytize away. These new neighbors are members of a different religion, so they likely don't want to heat a broken record of Jesus this and Jesus that. They are quite probably just as set in their religion as VB is in hers. So I'm sure they don't want their religion being questioned and discounted by their new neighbors. To do such a thing would actually go a long way toward making sure they don't become friends, rather than bring them together.

It was rather ironic that Graham brought up the Golden Rule. VB wouldn't want her religion questioned, so she shouldn't question the new neighbor's religion either. If friendship is the true goal, VB should just ignore the religion issue and do their best to be neighborly. That was the only advice needed Billy, so stop the pushy Christian act and just be friendly. Get to know people for who they are rather than fixating on religion, and a true friendship will be possible.

-Brain Hulk

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Friday, May 17, 2013

How would you know?

Once I was in a debate with an individual that claimed that even though we (atheists) don't believe in the devil, just as we don't believe in any gods, that Satan believes in us. He said that know it or not, we were doing the Devil's bidding. That he was unknowingly using us toward his own ends. Okay, nice story... Have anything to back that up? This is nothing but an empty claim and nothing more. But this claim also poses the question of if they are the ones unwittingly being used.

For example, what if The mythology of Egypt is true? What if Set created the false religion of
Christianity to draw believers away from Horus? The Christians would still be sincere in their belief, but they would be the pawns of Set none-the-less. If they claim that I am being used by the Devil without even knowing it, it stands to reason that they could be being used by Set and be equally oblivious.

And what about the Devil? Believers paint him as this horrible being of pure evil. But where do we get that description?  His arch rival no less! Is that really a reliable source? If you were shopping for a new car and the salesman told you that he has all the best deals, and that the dealer across the street is just looking to rip you off, would it make sense to trust him at his say-so? Of course not! He has a motive to make the sale and discourage you from giving that sale to the competition. With God and Satan, it's the same thing. God paints the Devil as a horrible person in his (supposed) book, but you must remember that they are in competition for your eternal 'soul'. So God has every incentive to discredit Satan to gain followers.

What about a Boston Red Sox fan talking with a New York Yankees fan? Obviously you're going to get conflicting opinions about which team is better. But with the God/Devil equation, we only get one side of the story... God demonizing Satan, with no reply. This is most likely because neither is real. But there is another way to look at it. What if Satan is choosing not to dignify such trash talk with a reply. What if the Devil is really the good guy? After all, God is responsible for far more deaths in the Bible than the Devil is.

Or perhaps Hogwarts is real. What if Harry Potter really is out there doing wonderful things. Perhaps the stories are more than fiction... What if Lord Voldemort is so powerful that he has cast a spell to make us all believe that the books are all fictitious stories dreamed up by J.K. Rowling? What if the stories are mostly true, but we are being made to believe they are not so as to lure us into a false sense of security. In this way, Lord Voldemort could be working away in the shadows, biding his time to take over the world and have his final revenge on Harry Potter. Is that claim really any more absurd than the one that I am being unwittingly used by Satan?

As I hope you can see, the claim that theist made was a silly one that can open you up to all manner of other silly possibilities... Silly, but equally as valid and likely as the claim that atheists are being unknowingly used by the Devil. Christopher Hitchens once said, "What is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence." In the same vain, I think these examples show that ridiculous or silly claims will spawn ridiculous or silly answers.

-Brain Hulk

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Comprimise?! I think not!

Well, it looks like the BS of caving to 'religious privilege' has made it to my neck of the woods... There is a place called Antietam Recreation, that Washington County public schools takes students to for field trips. While the outdoor activities and such are nice, there's a huge problem that the company is rather secretive about on the field trip activity forms. The form reads as such:
9:15-9:30am: Arrival
9:30-11:20am: Open Activities/pool is open(boys only)
11:20-11:40am: Lunch: All other activities closed; a show will be presented
11:40-1:30pm: Open Activities/pool is open(girls only)
 1:30pm: Prepare for departure

Open activities include swimming, boat slide, cable ride, carousel swing ride, dunking booth, horse rides, canoeing, kayaking, moon bounce, burma bridge, barge, giant rope swing, petting zoo, tennis, badminton, volleyball, basketball, game room and snack shop.
That actually sounds like pretty good fun, but I've emboldened the important bit of the itinerary. The
'show' presented at lunch is where we find the problem, as it was nothing short of a proselytizing session all about God and Jesus. For a public school field trip, this is quite inexcusable! Once this news came out, the school board initially made the correct call, and stated that they would no longer be taking students there unless they changed their program for the 20 minute lunch portion. So the Constitution is upheld, great news, end of story right? Well...

Supposedly both sides have reached a compromise that would green-light Antietam Recreation for Washington County public school field trips. So what was this 'compromise'? Here you go...
They have reached the compromise that if students feel uncomfortable with the spiritual message, then they can go outside to the petting zoo or go horseback riding instead.
 Really?!? That is not a compromise at all! So let me get this straight... if anyone is 'uncomfortable' with being proselytized to during lunch, they have to option to forgo lunch? Oh how kind of them. Even removing the lunch issue, we have to realize that allowing children to leave during the show isn't really as much of an easy option as it's presented. There's also the issue of peer pressure. Any child leaving because of the proselytizing is almost asking to be picked on/proselytized to by the most deeply religious students and possibly teachers. But even after all that, the unconstitutionality of it all really is the biggest issue of all.

That fact was missing on those that were complaining about the initial canceling of the field trips. Many felt that the trips were called off because some were offended by the message. That was not the case. I couldn't care less if anyone was offended. I don't personally agree with the message Antietam Recreation was presenting during lunch, and agree that the trips shouldn't be canceled just due to offense. I do agree with the trips being canceled due to them being illegal though.

Others are claiming that calls to cancel the trips are examples of 'liberal intolerance', or 'Christian discrimination'. Again, they are quite wrong. If the camp was presenting a Muslim message, I have no doubts that Christians would be up in arms. Yet they somehow don't see that they are doing exactly what they would be upset about a different religion for doing. However, our reasoning is far different than the Christian's 'reasoning' would be. They would be against a Muslim message because it is Muslim, and/or because it's different from what they believe. That is actually intolerance/discrimination. But when I call for the ceasing of field trips to this place due to the message they're presenting, it's not because it's Christian. I'd feel the same if it was a Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or Mormon  message. And that's not because of intolerance, but because of the Constitutional legality of the matter.

Mary Rotz (who's family founded Antietam Recreation) is just as clueless. She's was quoted as saying that, "We want to encourage that message: God is important and it's what our country was founded upon, it's our heritage". Incorrect! The United States was not founded on Christianity. Just take a look at the Treaty of Tripoli, which was drafted under the end of the presidency of George Washington and signed by president John Adams. It reads:
As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion...
 That's pretty clear that the United States was not founded upon Christianity. Furthermore, the First Amendment of the US Constitution says: 
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...
That really is the root of the issue. Thomas Jefferson's famous wall of separation between church and state.The First Amendment's establishment clause is the one being tested here. Here we have a public school using it's funding to take children to a place that is knowingly proselytizing in favor of Christianity. This makes it a government recognition of Christianity over other faiths (and lack thereof). If a publicly funded school is using it's funds to take students to Antietam Recreation, it makes no difference whether they have the option to not take part if they want. The fact is that they are still distributing the message to a (captive) audience of students during their lunch, whilst receiving public funding to do just that, makes field trips to Antietam Recreation a violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

Considering the facts and the law, the supposed comprise is no compromise at all, and does nothing to solve the problem that is Antietam Recreation. Should they omit their religious show from the schedule, the problem would be solved. However, they choose to act like they are above the law. Sadly, Washington County public schools looks set to let them get away with it. I really hope I'm wrong, and that the Constitution will be vindicated one way or another.

-Brain Hulk

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Mother knows best, God... not so much

Just in time for Mother's Day, Billy Graham steps forward to offer more terrible advice... 
Mothers everywhere can model God's love

DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: What advice do you have for a new mother? I didn’t grow up in a stable home, and I don’t want to make the same mistakes my mother made, even if they weren’t always her fault. — V. M.

DEAR V.M.: Tomorrow is Mother’s Day across our nation, a time when we should not only honor our mothers, but also thank God for all they’ve meant to us. Perhaps your mother wasn’t perfect, but she still gave you life and took care of you when you could not take care of yourself. One of the Ten Commandments declares, “Honor your father and your mother … so that … it may go well with you” (Deuteronomy 5:16).

How can you be a better mother? First, love your children — and let them know you love them. They are a responsibility God has entrusted to you and your husband, but they also are a God-given gift, to be loved, treasured and enjoyed. One of the ways you love them is by teaching them about life. The Bible says, “My son … do not forsake your mother’s teaching” (Proverbs 6:20).

Then don’t be afraid to say “no” when your children do wrong, and to back it up with appropriate discipline (but not in anger). Be sure you and your husband agree, however; children are very adept at playing off one parent against the other! Always letting a child have his or her own way may seem like the loving thing to do at the time, but in reality it’s a sure recipe for problems later on.

Finally, put Christ at the center of your family — and your life. Read the Bible and pray with your children; help them realize why church is important; let them see Christ in your relationship with each other. May God bless you — and every mother — on this special day.
Ah, good old cherry picking Bill. I find it funny that he references when Deuteronomy 5:16 says to "Honor your father and your mother", yet leaves out Luke 14:26. If you remember that's where Jesus himself says, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, even their own life--such a person cannot be my disciple." Real pleasant huh? So Billy conveniently calls on the commandment to honor your parents, while the Bile also says to hate them... Talk about miked signals, and dishonest reporting as to what the Bible really has to say on the subject!

Graham also goes on to call children a gift from God, to be treasured, loved and enjoyed. Okay, I'll agree that children are a responsibility, but also ones that you can enjoy and teach. But what about God's gift to the mom's? Well, make childbirth terribly painful of course. Golly, what a swell guy... Supposedly, child birth was and easy affair prior to 'the fall'. So what does God do to show his displeasure? He causes child birth to be terribly painful, and dangerous enough that the mothers were often in danger of death before the medical advancements that have improved conditions greatly. Again, not exactly an example of love that I think anyone should be striving to mimic.

Billy then stresses the mother's duty of teaching by referencing Proverbs 6:20 which reads, "My son...  do not forsake your mother's teaching". But then there's 1 Timothy 2:12. "I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet." Okay... so women aren't allowed to teach, but honor their teachings. That's about as clear as mud!

We continue on to find Graham advocating discipline when children misbehave, and telling them 'no' when need be. I'd agree with that, but certainly not in a Biblical sense. What if your child is being disobedient? Well, you have to stone them to death of course!
Deuteronomy 21:18-21 "If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:

Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;

And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.

And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear."
 Yeah... I think we can all agree that the Biblical guide to discipline is a really really bad guide for parents to raise their children by. But there's also the aspect of God's discipline. Remember, God makes a threat that the price of 'sin' is eternal Hellfire. Kill someone, steal, lust after a woman, wearing poly-cotton blended clothing, getting a memorial tattoo, eat the 'wrong' kinds of bugs, eating pork, trim the edges of your beard, working on a Sunday, touching a football, touching a menstruating woman, planting two crops in the same field, etc. The punishment for doing ANY of those is the same. Kill someone = burn forever! Eat a ham sandwich = burn forever! Anyone else see a huge problem here? 

I feel that this shows that the god of the Bible is a horrible source to go to for parenting advice. 'God's love' is a ridiculous zero tolerance policy. Any good parent (and anyone with common sense) should be able to tell you that you do not have the same penalty for every transgression. Maybe you'll make their curfew earlier for one thing, a spanking for one thing, no allowance, grounded for a week, grounded for a month, no friends allowed over, etc. A different punishment for the severity of the rule broken, and different punishments for different ages. Not so for God though. With him, it's fire and torment for all. But it gets worse. The punishment is eternal. What good parent would prescribe infinite punishment for a finite wrongdoing? I'll tell you... none! 

In short, it's a wonderful thing that mothers tend not to subscribe to God's model of love. My mom didn't. She (and my father) raised me well, and lovingly. She taught me, she cared for me, and she disciplined me when I did wrong. But she did not follow the insane example presented by God. My parents instead raised me right, and I love them for that.

-Brain Hulk

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Friday, May 10, 2013

Life after birth

I recently stumbled along this little story that tries to equate 'life after birth' to 'life after death'. Unsurprisingly, the 'logic' is far from sound... Here's the story in question:

In the belly of a pregnant woman, two babies are having a conversation. One of them is a believer and the other is an atheist.

The Atheist: Do you believe in life after birth?
The Believer: Of course I do. Everybody knows there is life after birth. We are here in order to grow strong enough and prepared for what awaits us after it.

The Atheist: Nonsense! There can’t be life after birth! Can you imagine how this life would be?

The Believer: I don’t know all the details, but I believe there’s more light, and maybe we will walk and feed ourselves there.

The Atheist: Rubbish! It’s impossible to walk and feed ourselves! Ridiculous! We have the umbilical cord that feeds us. I just want to point this out to you: Life after birth can’t exist because our life, the cord, is already too short.

The Believer: I am sure it’s possible. It will be just a little different. I can envision it.

The Atheist: But there is nobody who has ever returned from it! Life simply ends with birth. And frankly, life is just one big suffering in the dark.

The Believer: No, no! I don’t know how life after birth will be exactly, but in any case, we will meet our mother and she will take care of us!

The Atheist: Mother? You think we have a mother? So, where is she then?

The Believer: She is everywhere around us, and we are in her! We move because of her and thanks to her, we move and live! Without her, we wouldn’t exist.

The Atheist: Baloney! I haven’t seen any such mother; hence, there is none.

The Believer: I can’t agree with you. In fact, sometimes, when everything calms down, we can hear her sing and feel how she caresses our world. I strongly believe that our real life will begin only after birth.

We'll first ignore the fact that babies can not converse as it's a simple ploy to drive the story. Also, let's ignore the miss-use of the term 'atheist'. An atheist is someone who lacks a belief in a god(s). God is not the topic of their conversation. And actually, since religion is taught, and they haven't been taught yet, they would bot technically be atheists. But back to the story...

When the 'believer baby' states that everyone knows that there is life after birth, who would this 'everyone' be? Babies don't exactly get to go out and mingle much before birth now do they.

Then when the 'atheist baby' says that life after birth is impossible and that they can't imagine life after birth, we find our first false equivalency. To the babies in this example, they would notice that they are growing larger, and will eventually notice that their location will start to shift as the big day comes nearer. This story would have us believe that the babies are going off of faith about 'life after birth' just as many go off on faith in regard to life after death. The claim being that if it's silly to not believe in life after birth, that it's just as wrong to not believe in life after death. Logic doesn't work that way though. There is of course, undisputed proof of life after birth. Yet there is no proof of life after death. In fact, some aspects on which differing models hinge on have been debunked. But what about from these babies' perspective?

Since these two are being treated as mini adults, will continue in that vain. As I stated above, they will notice their growth. They will also notice physiological changes to their anatomy. They start out very well suited for their surroundings, and slowly grow less and less suited for their surroundings. This growing, moving and changing could serve to suggest that they may be moving toward a different way of life. Not to mention being able to see varying degrees of light and hear the outside world.

Also important to note is that an atheist does not disbelieve in the afterlife because they can't imagine it, as the 'atheist baby' can't imagine life after birth. I can imagine all sorts of different afterlives. But I still don't believe. That fact is due to the total lack of evidence that there is an afterlife, and the fact that it hinges on the existence of a 'soul' which does not exist.

The babies rely on the umbilical cord for food. But as the mouth develops (apparently well enough to speak in this story), they would also notice that anything being swallowed also ended up 'feeding' them. When a person does not believe in life after death, it is not the same as a jump to a conclusion like 'umbilical cord = starve without it'. As I've stated before, there is no evidence for there being an afterlife, yet there is proof we can (eventually) live without our umbilical cord.

Quite frankly, the 'no one has ever returned from it' argument is rather old and sad. First, how many babies are they proposing were in this womb that they can say that nobody ever comes back?  Also, I don't disbelieve in life after death because 'no one has ever come back'. Again, it all comes down the evidence and proofs.

Additionally, I find it offensive to assume that life to an atheist is just a 'suffering in the dark'. Life is amazingly beautiful, and I actually find life and nature all the more beautiful and awe inspiring since I cast off my belief. Sure, life to a baby is probably cramped and boring, but I find life to be anything but.

Then there's the attempt to equate 'mother' to God. It is claimed that the 'atheist baby' doesn't believe they have a mother and asks where she is. The 'believer baby' then states that 'mother' is all around them, and the 'atheist baby' basically says that they haven't seen her, so she isn't real. Yet another false equivalency. While we have absolutely no evidence that a god exists, there is plenty evidence that 'mom' does. Their 'host' shows signs of life. Respiration, movement, etc. Remember that umbilical cord that feeds them? Another piece of evidence for 'mom'. Additionally, they are made of flesh, and are surrounded by living flesh. These babies are literally surrounded with proof of 'mother'. So the claim the story is making is quite a poor one. And in the real world we are left with claims for a god that is evidenced, and fails the tests thrown his direction. Not even a close comparison.

While the story can be viewed as cute to some, it is also a blatant attempt to ridicule those that don't believe in life after death, or God. Whoever wrote it thought they were being clever, I assume. What they were instead was clueless. Their claims an analogies just don't stand up. Yet another straw-man argument created because that's the only adversary they can defeat. Quite sad really...

-Brain Hulk

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

De'Marquis Elkins

Looks like it's time to examine another chain email. This one looks at an unsavory fellow called De'Marquis Elkins, and uses him as an example to try and blame all the country's problems on anyone who isn't a rootin' tootin' NRA gun toting 'Merican. But lets look at the so-called 'arguments'...

In late March 2013, 17 year old De’Marquis Elkins shot and killed an 13 month old baby who was sitting in a stroller.

Okay, he's a bad guy that did a terrible thing. I think we can all agree with that. Dully noted.

Elkins shot the infant in the face after the mother refused to give him money.

Piece of shit guy, did a shitty thing, for a shitty reason. He is a criminal after all.

He also shot the mother in the leg and the neck in Brunswick, GA.

Again, a bad guy doing a bad thing.

De’Marquis Elkins is not a member of the NRA.

Assuming that's true, what is the relevance? Is this an attempt to claim that bad guy wasn't in the NRA thus NRA = good guys by default? Sorry, but it isn't that simple. There are people that aren't in the NRA that don't commit crimes, and those that do. Likewise, NRA members have also both committed crimes and not committed crimes. So his membership (or lack thereof) is really on no relevance.

He did not use an assault rifle.

Considering that the majority of shootings are not done using an assault rifle, this fact isn't surprising in the slightest. I feel like there's a bit of a misunderstanding at the root of this one. When gun control advocates suggest a ban on assault rifles, they don't expect a dramatic decrease in crime. The goal is to eliminate a class of weapon that many feel there is no need for the average person to have. Criminals would obviously still be able to source one illegally. But when shooters that purchased their guns legally commit a shooting crime, they use what they have available. If assault weapons were illegal, they wouldn't have one. No assault rifle, less fatalities than could have been the case otherwise. Shootings wouldn't drop dramatically, but there should be a slight drop, and a drop in casualties when they do occur.

He did not get his stolen pistol from a gun show.

I think it goes without saying that the stolen gun wouldn't have been purchased at a gun show. Stolen is stolen no matter where it's been stolen from. The issue of gun shows is a matter of loopholes, not theft. The point is that all people purchasing at all gun shows should undergo the same background checks as purchases in a regular store setting.

His favorite music is rap.

I don't like rap either, but where is the relevance? There are fans of rap that commit crime, and fans of rap that don't. The same can be said for all music types. Rock, pop, country, hip-hop, even classical. All music types have fans that have committed crimes and those that haven't. While I do not like rap, I hardly feel that demonizing it as a whole is at all helpful.

He did not attend Christian school, nor was he home schooled.

And how do we know where he went to school? And tell me again what relevance this claim is?
I can only assume that this is yet more demonizing of public education by the religious right. Hate to burst your bubble, but going to public school does not mean that you will turn criminal. I went to public school, am not a criminal, and graduated as Valedictorian with a perfect 4.0 GPA (before weighted GPA's). Also, Christian schools and home schooling aren't perfect at all. True, there are criminals that go to public schools, but there are plenty of non-criminals that attend public schools. Likewise, criminals and non-criminals also attend Christian schools and are home schooled.

I know that of the people I went to public school, some wound up being business owners, some are lawyers, sales people, general staff, firefighters, law enforcement, and some are down on their luck or been in trouble with the law. Meanwhile I also know people that went to Catholic school that are terrible individuals. On drugs, can't hold a job, make the worst choices, abusive, deceptive... just plain terrible. Then I also know those that are genuinely good people.  So again, what is the relevance?

He did attend multicultural public education; he was not instructed in the Ten Commandments.

Source? So what if he received multicultural public education? As with several above, what is the relevance of if he attended multicultural public education? And considering the fact that the majority of attendees do not wind up being criminals, why try and blame that for being a cause? How exactly do you know he wasn't instructed in the Ten Commandments? I find it very hard to believe that anyone in the United States is wholly ignorant of the Ten Commandments. But lets just assume that this claim is correct... Where is the relevance? Is this a sad attempt to claim that he was a terrible person because he's (being claimed) not Christian? News flash, but Christians and non Christians alike are criminals, and not criminals. Also, the odds are in favor of him being a Christian are far more likely than anything else. Remember, that being a Christian doesn't automatically translate to being a perfect member of society. After all, the vast majority of prison inmates in the USA are Christians.

His Momma was on welfare, got food stamps, and lived in public housing.

I'm feeling like a broken record here, but... relevance? Hate to break up the 'hate on welfare recipients' party, but people being on welfare, does not tell us that they are due to be criminals. Additionally, there are differing reasons for being on welfare. Some don't want to be, but are in a bad place. Others abuse the system. But again, there are good people on welfare, and bad. There re also good and bad that are also not on welfare.

His daddy was not around, and his two brothers have a different daddy.

This is a sad situation, but hardly suggestive of why he's a criminal. Single parents can raise good kids, as well as bad kids. Likewise, couples are also capable of raising bad kids. And who cares about his brothers? We're talking about De'Marquis here, not his brothers. And what of those brothers? They are in an unfortunate situation as well, but they're assumedly not criminals as their brother is.

He already has a record for violent crimes.

Gold star for this one. The email about this kid being a criminal, and one of the proofs is that he's a criminal. Hope no one strained themselves coming up with that one. But him having a reacord is important. If he has a record, and background checks are required, he can't legally buy a gun. That leaves the option of attaining one illegally. Which, while possible, is harder than just going out and buying one.

He is gang member.

Ding ding, ding! I think we found the winner here. Gangs by their very nature are criminal and violent. So he was either a criminal to begin with, or the gang made him one.

His mom, grandma, and Aunty all voted for Obama.

And? Seriously, these are getting pretty weak. Who cares who they voted for, and what relevance does that hold? Did he vote? If his mom voted for Obama, how does that influence who HE is? Also, if you are claiming that is does matter, would him mom's (hypothetical) fondness for playing BINGO at the fire hall also make him a killer? Good people voted for Obama, as well as bad. Likewise, good people voted for Romney, as well as bad. What if someone's parent voted for Obama? Does that make Obama to blame somehow. What if we go back further in the same family and find an ancestor that voted for Lincoln. Did Abe then cause a kid generations later to be the person he/she is today? It's a silly argument that just wants to randomly blame things on Obama.

He never earned his hunter safety card, nor did he shoot CMP, Junior NRA, or 4H Air Rifle Competitions.

Relevance? Having a safety card, etc does not guarantee one not to be a murderer. Those with and without have committed crimes. And if we pretend that smart and safe gun owners leads to non-criminal gun owners, why did gun advocates here in Maryland raise such a stink over a proposed law requiring the passage of gun safety classes?

He was never instructed in gun safety from his father or grandfather.

Me either, but somehow I've never committed murder. How in the world did I dodge that bullet? Again, this argument fails when you consider that people instructed in gun safety have also committed gun crimes as well.

His public education and family taught him that the white man owes him something.

Proof? I went to public school and can tell you that we were never taught that 'the white man' owes African-Americans anything. We were taught about slavery and the civil rights movement. But never that anyone in entitled to reparations. As for the family angle, who knows what he was taught. But even if true, that doesn't automatically translate to a life of violent crime.

He went to collect it.


He has no plans on getting married, but does have a Baby Momma, and no, he is not supporting her baby.

Until I met my wife, I thought I'd be alone, but am now glad that I've met the love of my life. But I wasn't a criminal prior. As for not supporting the child... that's classless and irresponsible. But it doesn't make him a killer. Plenty of married guys with kids have murdered people in cold blood as well.

He smokes dope.

A stupid thing to do that I can't really condone. But doesn't mean that drugs = killer. Clean people kill too. And there are people so high on marijuana that they can't muster to energy to get off the sofa, let alone kill someone.

He does respect Kayne West.

If true, how so? I don't personally care fore Kayne West, but I don't think this makes him a killer. I'm sure you can find a Toby Keith fan that's a killer as well, and you can't get much more different than that.

While he has no job, nor is looking for one, he is well fed.

This is also wrong and irresponsible, but again, does not make him a killer. There are those abusing the system that aren't murderers, and there are also those that are very well off who are.

He has no skills outside of crime.

While crime is framed as his forte in this email, I find it hard to believe there's absolutely nothing else he can do or is interested in. But I'm just speculating.

He speaks Ebonics, and is not capable of doing a professional interview, even though he spent 11 years in public education.

Sadly, the state of education isn't great everywhere. I some areas overpopulation and poor funding means forcing kids along even if their merits didn't warrant advancement. There was no such problem in my public schools, but this problem does exist. Additionally, if this is true, he obviously lacks ambition. But poor English skills does not equal criminal. There are plenty of English speaking people who have killed as well, after all. And why is it that when moves are made to try and put more money into education, there are calls to cut funding instead? You guessed it, those calls are from the very same people who would criticize public education as a whole.

He is one of millions.

One of millions of what?

This is what we are up against. Make no mistake that people like Elkins will have their guns. There are people wanting to deny you the right to arm yourself. Your tax dollars are paying for the continuation of a system that breeds pieces of shit like this one. 

WRONG!  No one is trying to take your precious guns away. Gun control is not the black and white matter that so many gun enthusiasts try to make it out to be. It is not the move to take away all guns. Rather it's a move to make guns safer and to keep guns from those that shouldn't have them to begin with. True, if someone wants one, they can always try to secure one illegally. But aren't background checks worth it if it brings killings down even 1% or 5%? I think it would be.

It is true that Elkins seems to be a piece of shit. But instead of building him up as a straw-man example of the average what I assume you'd call 'liberal', how about sticking to actual facts rather than relying on presumptions and stereotypes. It makes you look bad, and it kills any possible legitimacy your claims may have had to start with. So please, stop these sad and transparent methods to further your agenda, and instead work together with real facts and information to find a real and viable explanation and solution.

-Brain Hulk

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Monday, May 6, 2013

Is there an indoctrinator in the house?

Welcome back to another exciting installment on bad advice with Bill! This week Mr. Graham airs a question about 'influencing your grand-children's spirituality'...
You can pass your faith on to grandchildren
DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: Can grandparents do anything to influence their grandchildren spiritually? We live away from our grandchildren and only see them a few times a year, but we want to encourage them to become followers of Jesus. — J.K.

DEAR J.K.: I’m grateful for your concern for your grandchildren — and yes, you can be a positive spiritual influence even if you aren’t with them on a regular basis.

What can you do? First, you can encourage their parents to be concerned for their spiritual welfare. (Do it gently, however; you don’t want them to think you’re criticizing them or trying to interfere.) Hopefully they’re active in a church, and if so you can encourage them to take advantage of its programs for children. If they aren’t involved in a church, you can encourage them to do so. The Bible says, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

Then you can let your grandchildren know you love them and are praying for them. (Many grandparents today have learned to use email just so they can stay in touch with their grandchildren.) In addition, when you are with them, ask God to help you be an example to them of Christ-like faith and love, both by your speech and your actions.

You don’t mention their ages , but consider giving them a Bible storybook written for children their age.

Most of all, pray for your grandchildren (and their parents). Distance may be a difficulty for you — but it isn’t to God. And be encouraged by Paul’s words to his co-worker Timothy: “Your sincere faith ... first lived in your grandmother Lois” (2 Timothy 1:5).
Okay, so 'granny' wants to know the best way to indoctrinate her grandchildren. How quaint... Personally, I think the question should be whether one should indoctrinate children to begin with. The answer to that question is an unequivocal NO! Her grandchildren are individuals and should be left free to make up their own minds with such a potentially important issue. Religion is very personal, and the path to one's choice of religion (or lack thereof) should also be a personal journey, not a forced one. A grandparent doesn't try to influence a child's favorite color, or tell them what their hobbies will be. So why try to force your religion on another? A good grandparent should not try to control their grand-child's life. Rather, they should love their grandchildren for who they are, and allow them to draw their own conclusions on the question of religious belief.

Of course, Graham suggests that JK go right ahead and ignore good judgement and instead ride the indoctrination train. He opined that the grandparents suggest that the parents should be active in the church with the children in order to indoctrinate them into the church. Yep, he unashamedly suggests that they force religion onto these (presumably) young children before they are old enough to realize they are being indoctrinated.

After you've done that Grams says, "Then, you can let your grandchildren know that you love them". Seriously?! AFTER you indoctrinate them, THEN you can tell them you love them! How about you love them belief in Christ or not? So what if they don't share your belief in your favorite fairytale. You should love them for who they are, not what they believe.

Graham then suggested that they get them a children's Bible. How about rather than getting them a storybook Bible, you get them a 'real' one. Instead of the handful of sugar-coated stories, let them read the totality of what you are trying to hoodwink them into. Unlike what the Bible storybooks show, the Bible is a book of horrors. It's not all 'God is love'. In it's totality, the violence, genocide, ridiculous rules, horrible inaccuracies far outweigh the pleasant stories.

So no, one should not indoctrinate any child. Allow them their own process to find where they personally stand on the question of faith. And if that means that they don't end up settling on the same beliefs as you, you should respect their decision and continue loving them for who they are. Indoctrination is an unfortunately common practice, and one that I'm proud to have escaped.

-Brain Hulk

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Friday, May 3, 2013

Married to reality

I've written about atheists and marriage. I showed that atheists can and do get married for very good reasons. But there are still some that claim us to be a threat to marriage. More recently, the discussion has been about same sex marriage as a threat to marriage, but some still claim that we are wasting time with marriage. Why is that? The claim is that our marriages won't last because they aren't 'blessed by God'. Well, how about if we take a closer look....

There was a recent study that looked at the divorce rates by different 'faiths'. Here are what the results say:

Jewish = 30% divorce rate
Born-Again Christian = 27% divorce rate
Other Christian = 24% divorce rate
Atheist/Agnostic = 21% divorce rate

As you can see by these results, atheists get divorced less than anyone else. But lets break down the results by specific Christian groups:

Non-Denominational = 34% divorce rate
Baptist = 29% divorce rate
Mainline Protestant = 25% divorce rate
Mormon = 24% divorce rate
Catholic = 21% divorce rate
Lutheran = 21% divorce rate

Interestingly enough, it would seem that Catholic's and Lutheran's also get divorced at the lowest rate of 21% just like us atheists. But are the stats really equal? One thing we must consider is how many of those Catholics or Lutherans are still married solely because of their faith. I'm not talking about faith making the relationship better and stronger, but faith that ties failed relationships together. Remember that in some forms of Christianity, divorce is a big no-no. In my past, I have known people who's marriage's were well past the 'best by date'. But they stayed in these relationships only because their religion disallowed divorce. Others didn't divorce because their church would excommunicate them if they admitted the truth that the marriage was over and that the love was gone. I ask you, is that any way to decide how to spend the rest of your life? I don't think these people are the majority of Christian marriages. But I wouldn't be surprised if that bumped the Catholic or Lutheran rates up to 22 or 23%.

So what causes the lower rates of divorce amongst atheists? I'd opine that it's due to a somewhat different approach to relationships. As I illustrated in my previous post, atheists tend to get married for the right reasons. But sometimes religion means that you don't get married for the right reasons. Sometimes it's a case of marriage because of an expectant pregnancy. In my opinion, that's not a good reason to get married in and of itself. Even if you're expecting a child, that doesn't mean you should automatically go get married. If you aren't compatible, you shouldn't get married, child or no child. But there's religious expectations to protect, so they get married and set themselves up for eventual failure. There's no need to be married to stay involved in the child's life.

Another example would be premarital sex. Some brands of Christianity forbid sex before marriage. This can lead to couples getting married before finding out if they are 'compatible'. Now, i don't think that marriage is all about sex, but it is a part of it. We atheists have no such prohibition, so we know what we're getting into and what to expect. But if you get married with never having sex, you could end up with a spouse that you don't have any physical chemistry with. So what can happen if that chemistry isn't there? Well many tend to either take a page from Deuteronomy 24:1-4 and divorce them. That, or they wind up cheating only to wind up with the same end result of divorce.

So while atheists still get divorced at a rate of 21%, that rate is the lowest of all 'faith groups'. There is room for improvement, but we're doing something right if we get divorced less than anyone else. I can tell you my wife and I are striving to take that 21% lower. But one thing clear is that atheists are not ruining marriage. If anything, we're taking better care of it than anything else.

-Brain Hulk

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