Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Feeling 'good'

There is one thing in my life that just about everyone does. It's considered a right of passage, and many people can't wait to be able to do it. Then on their 21st birthday they go to the bar with their friends and have their first (legal) drink. And all of this is done with much excitement and fanfare.

But I just don't get it. When I turned 21 I had no intense desire to go out and chug beers. Perhaps it's because I've seen the effects of alcohol abuse. I've seen uncles ruin relationships, become unreasonable and belligerent, and even childishly blow up our toilet with firecrackers because they had (more than) one too many.

So maybe that's one of the reasons drinking has never really interested me. I saw the harm it can do and wished to avoid it even though I also witnessed those who could and did drink responsibly. But another reason is that I don't like how alcohol clouds one's judgement. Of all my qualities, I hold my mind as my most important. So anything that alters one's cognition is something I instinctively shy away from.

That said, I didn't have my first drink until I was twenty-four. And when I did, i still didn't see the appeal. Let's just say that I can not for the life of me understand the desire that many have for a beer at the end of the day. The taste of beer is not something I find enjoyable. But I tried several different kinds to see if it was just 'that beer', but what I found is that most beers all taste the same to me.

I did find that there are some wines that I enjoy, though wine isn't exactly suitable to relaxed informal get-togethers. Nor is wine practical when you're out in the garage working on the car. Then at the age of  29 I discovered the closest thing to beer that I actually enjoy. Cider! Apple, pear... so many different and enjoyable varieties. But still, one or two and I'm done. I simply refuse to fall victim to the old perils of alcohol that I witnessed in my youth.

I have never been drunk, nor do I ever intend to be. People that drink in order to get drunk baffle me. Why would someone voluntarily and purposely give up the ability to control their decision-making and motor functions?

I don't even understand the appeal of drinking to 'get a buzz'. I have had enough to drink to get a buzz a couple times to see what the draw was and was supremely unimpressed. There's maybe some initial novelty the first time, but after that I don't see anything about it that is worth looking forward too.

Then there is the mythical zone between not drinking and being buzzed known as 'feeling good'. I can't say that I've ever experienced this intermediary transitional phase. Sure the first few sips from the bottle have relaxed me after a tough day. But I'm not really sure that I can attribute that to the 'feeling good' range of drinking since the very act of sitting down and knowing I was about to enjoy a tasty cider has also brought me a comparable feeling or relief.

All that said, while I don't fully understand recreational drinking, I have no problem with those that do so responsibly. So on this party night of party nights, try not to drink too much champagne or down too many brews to ring in the new year. Try to drink intelligently if you can. Pace yourself, be sure to eat, and don't mix your alcohol. And if you do drink more than you can handle, don't drink and drive. Find a ride, hire a taxi, or crash at a hotel. Just don't put yourself or others in danger, so that we may all enjoy yet another trip around the Sun.

-Brain Hulk

Please share, subscribe, comment and follow us on your favorite social networking sites!
facebook | google+ | twitter

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Most important event in human history

Humans... We've done some amazing things as well as some terrible ones. But which was the most important. That's what HR wants to know from Billy Graham...
Q: What do you think was the most important event in human history? And why is it important? I've asked this question of many people, and no one seems to agree on the answer. --H.R.
There's one answer that certainly sticks out in my head, but let's see what babbling Billy's answer is.
A: I'm convinced that the most important event in human history was the coming of Jesus Christ into the world, and what happened as a result of His presence with us.
So the most important event in human history (to Billy) is one for which there is no evidence of it actually occurring, and if it did was 100% unnecessary? Talk about setting your standards low!

So what do I think is the single most important event in human history? The discovery and taming of fire. With fire we became able to build a fire to keep warm, to give us light at night to see as well as scare off predators. Fire enabled us to begging cooking food. This allowed us the ability to keep it longer, as well as protect against food poisoning.

Fire enabled us to more easily work metals, and powered many early machines. Fire powered steam engines, and still powers our coal-fired power plants.

Without fire, humanity may never have flourished as it did. So for me, the answer to what the most important event in human history was is a very simple one.

-Brain Hulk

Please share, subscribe, comment and follow us on your favorite social networking sites!
facebook | google+ | twitter

Monday, December 29, 2014

Teenage Mary

Ah, the 'virgin birth'... One reader of Billy's is asking questions, but stops short of asking the right ones.
Q: Why did the Bible writers say that Jesus was born of a virgin? I know they lived thousands of years ago, but didn't they know that things like this just don't happen? --S.S.
SS is correct about one thing, things like that just don't happen (in most species anyway). The whole idea of Jesus being born of a virgin has two likely explanations. Both of which Billy simply decides to plug his ears from and ignore.
A: I can assure you they were just as aware of the facts of life as we are; they knew both a mother and a father were necessary to bring a child into the world. And Mary knew it also, which is why she was deeply troubled and asked the angel who told her she'd give birth to the Savior, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" (Luke 1:34, NKJV).
And yet the Bible assures us that Jesus had no human father --because His true Father was God. By a miracle that only God could bring about, Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary.
But did the Bible originally claim Mary to be a virgin mother? The original text actually uses a word that usually means 'young girl' rather that 'virgin'. So Mary being a virgin could be no more than a mistranslation.
Why did God do this? The reason was to stress the uniqueness of Jesus, for He alone --out of every person who had ever been born, or ever would be born --was the sinless Son of God.
As I've written before, Jesus wasn't sinless in the Bible. But he also wasn't unique. Jesus is but one (and not the oldest) in a long list of gods and saviors that is said to have been born of a virgin. So if the bible did intend to have Jesus born or a virgin, it looks more like the common practice of Christianity plagiarizing other religions.
What difference should Jesus' virgin birth make to us? It should point us to Jesus --who was both fully God and fully man.
Actually, it should be a shinning example of the Bible defeating itself. The prophesied savior was supposed to be of a certain bloodline. A bloodline that he supposedly fulfilled through his 'father'. Joseph. But the problem is that Joseph wasn't Jesus' genetic father if Mary was indeed a virgin.

This means that either the savior prophesy was wrong, that Jesus wasn't the prophesied savior, or that Mary was not a virgin. At best you can reconcile two of these, but not all three.

-Brain Hulk

Please share, subscribe, comment and follow us on your favorite social networking sites!
facebook | google+ | twitter

Friday, December 26, 2014

Seven things atheists get wrong

Readers of this blog already know I love responding to lists. Well here's one from The Federalist that claims to offer seven things that atheists get wrong...

1. Religion Is About Morality, Not Creation Myths
Often the origin of the earth and of man plays a central role in the science versus religion debate. There are jokes about cave men riding dinosaurs, deep concerns about our children being exposed to the idea of intelligent design, and disdain thrown upon those who question the almighty power of science.
Wait... David is aware that science and atheist aren't synonyms right? He titles the article as a list about atheists, but the very first point is about science. Oh well, let's roll with it. Science and religion clash about creation because the holy books always get it wrong. Sure some don't take those stories literally, but many do. And that's where science steps in to point out the error.

As for atheism, creation usually comes up from the believer first trying to sell the Biblical account or wanting it (wrongly) taught in science classrooms. In these cases, atheists will step in to point out the Constitutional violation, as well as to point out the science.

But I don't really think I know many atheists who are non-believers because of creation stories. After all, as I've said one can easily be a believer and attest to the truth of the Big Bang. All they must do is not take the religious creation story literally. Something that many Catholics have no problem doing.

About religion being about morality though... The article was prefaced with talk about Christianity, so lets just look at that religion for the time being. The Bible is not the book to follow if your religion is supposedly all about morality. There is much of the Bible that if followed would have you put in prison for a very long time (or put to death if you live in Texas).

2. Religion Is the Foundation of All Morality, Not Merely an Expression of It
The atheist approach to the non-empirical question of “how do we determine right from wrong” tends to be a negative ad campaign listing the horrors done in the name of religion. Whether it is the Inquisition or ISIS, atheists argue that these barbarities stem directly from the intolerance of religious texts and practices. On the surface it can be a persuasive argument, but upon deeper reflection it becomes murky...Before religion, there was murder and rape and all manner of horrors just as there are today. It was religion that first sought to constrain human actions through a moral code, not science.
While the pointing out of religious horrors is effective, there's no need to even get that far. That's because David's entire claim is based on the false premise that morality can only come from religion. As I've written in the past, morality can easily arise without any need for religion.  

The reference to science is a bit odd since no one expects science to form our morality, only to explain where it came from. But here we see David making another unsubstantiated claim. He claims that before religion, everything was just a lawless wasteland. Religion in general, or just his? Because 'moral' can vary from religion to religion. Also, we can find signs of people gathering into some sort of group structures far back into history. Further back than we have any way of telling if they even had any gods. Furthermore, he supposes his Christian faith to be the best of the religions, yet morality and social structures preceded Christianity by thousands of years.

3. Religion Was the Foundation of Society, Not an Addition to It
It was this debt to supernatural, irrational powers that created the very notion of acting in accordance with what is good. Whether all, or some, or none of the admonitions in Leviticus or the Koran are really moral is beside the point. They are part of humanity’s search, stretching to the invisible past, for guidelines or maxims that produce good actions and the structures to encourage them.
As stated before civilization, or at the very least, social groups existed before our earliest records of religion. So how can this baseless claim even be taken seriously when the history doesn't even support it? Furthermore, David's supposedly supreme Christianity didn't come along until even later. Yet somehow he sees this as a strength for Christianity's truth rather than a weakness? How?

And it actually is a big deal if everything in Leviticus isn't considered moral today. If morality stems from religion, we must look to the holy book for guidance. If we see a rule in the Bible and recognize it as immoral, and in many cases society will overwhelmingly agree, then that's a contradiction to David's claim. For if we can recognize that part of Biblical morality isn't moral at all, then that means that we are using morals that are external from the Bible. And since the Bible is the only source for Christian morals, then religion can't be the sole source of morality.

4. Atheists Do Believe

The question most often posed to atheists who complain about the presence of the Ten Commandments or a creche in public spaces is, “Since you don’t believe, why does it bother you so much?” This is the wrong question. The right question is, “Since you do believe, why does it bother you so much?” Because most atheists do believe, and I stress the word believe, that they are capable of understanding right from wrong. They provide no scientific justification for such a belief because no such scientific justification exists.
Sigh... Atheists don't challenge displays of the Ten Commandments because they supposedly bother us in general. The fact is that we challenge these displays only when they are in a location that violates the law. A stone slab of ten mostly worthless guidelines doesn't bother me, but people getting away with breaking the law does.

And again this entire point is based on the absurd claim that morality only comes from religion. Only this time he words it in a way to suggest that atheists can't really know right for wrong without God. But the dance usually claims that if we can, then we've actually proved there is a God. But this is no more than a sloppy logical fallacy.

5. Science Can’t Teach Us Right from Wrong

Even if it were proven that there is a “generosity gene” or that there are evolutionary advantages to cooperative behavior, such things would not inform us how to act in a given situation. The activation of a gene or the selfless actions of our ancestors may well provide a subconscious impulse for moral action, but that impulse must still be translated to the conscious mind. Upon finding a $20 bill on the floor, we must still decide whether to keep it or look for its previous owner based on stories we tell ourselves. Science cannot tell us these stories, and the moment it tries to it becomes religion.
Here's the thing... No one is expecting science to teach us right from wrong! When it comes to morality, we only ask science to explain it and it's origins. Perhaps this is a list of seven things that David gets wrong.

6. Religion Complements Science, It Doesn’t Oppose It
This is where religion, far from being the natural enemy of science, comes to its aid. Just as believers must always fight nagging doubts about the truth of their beliefs, the atheist must fight nagging beliefs when confronted with moral choices. Just as there is no paradox in a believer knowing that science can reveal important details of how the physical world operates, there is no paradox in an atheist knowing that religion and its ancient history of moral investigation is relevant to moral understanding.
Again with the inane peddling of morality only stemming from religion? Give it a rest already! David was wrong before and he still is now.

As for whether religion and science are at odds... Well, that depends on how much you compromise your religion.They certainty can coexist. One method of doing so is compartmentalizing. The other is usually not taking scientific claims in your own personal 'good book' literally. Because there is no doubting that there is much science that the Bible gets very wrong. This leaves the believer with two options (while still remaining a believer)... 1) Deny the science and maybe even try to push religion into the science classroom. 2) Admit that passage is incorrect or that it isn't supposed to be taken literally. So believers need not be totally at odds with science, even though their book very much is.

7. Ignorance of Religion Is Ignorance of History, For Atheists and Everyone
The systematic removal of religious texts, practices, and imagery from our public lives is not a worthy goal. 
What does David mean by 'public lives'? If he means government property, since when is following and enforcing the law not a worthy goal? If he means being able to see these thing at all (displayed on private property) when we're out in public, then he need not worry since these things aren't under any threat at all.
When the Ten Commandments are placed on a wall, nobody believes they are the actual tablets Moses brought down from Sinai’s mount.
That doesn't enter into it at all. The only thing that matters is if it's a violation of the establishment clause. If that wall is a public school, then that is just such a violation.

I also find it odd that David talks of ignorance of religion when atheists have actually been shown to know more about religion than the religious. We know religion better than most. And yes, while religion may have helped shape history, the books of the Bible are not literal history.

But lets turn the tables. Ignorance of science is ignorance of reality, for Christians and everyone. Take evolution for example. Just about every time I've debated evolution with a denier, it became painfully obvious from the start that they were incredibly ignorant of even the most simple basics of evolution. This has led to countless attempts by Christians to keep evolution from being taught, attempts to shoehorn creationism into the classroom, and also a general distrust of science. So yes, scientific ignorance does hurt us all.

And there we have it. Another lackluster list that doesn't deliver on any of it's claims.

-Brain Hulk

Please share, subscribe, comment and follow us on your favorite social networking sites!
facebook | google+ | twitter

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Understand the Bible

Sometime people have trouble understanding the Bible, so what should those people do?
DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: I started reading the Bible during my summer vacation, but I got bogged down after a few days and finally just gave up. I know it would probably help me, but how can I understand it? — M.N.
I'm going to go out on a limb and guess MN has the King James version. While I didn't find it's translation hard to read and understand, it is a complaint I have heard from others.
God gave the Bible to us –and I can assure you He wants us to understand it!
If that's the case, you would think that he would have done a better job. The all-powerful creator of everything decided the best way to communicate with us was trough a poorly written book that has been translated into many different versions that sometimes actually change what verses are actually saying? That is hardly impressive and pulls God's supposed omnipotence and omniscience into
serious question.
Through the Bible, we not only learn about God, but we also discover how He wants us to live and what He wants to do in our lives.
He leaves the Bible to tell about himself, yet leaves no evidence to solve the problem of any future doubters? And why in the world do so many people act like we need to be told how to live our lives and what to do with them? What's wrong with some freedom, and personal responsibility?
Can you think of anything more important?
Well, yeah... Like a cheap, easy and instant solution to climate change for starters.
How can you discover the Bible’s treasures for yourself? Let me make three brief suggestions. First, read it prayerfully.
Prayerfully? What does that even mean? I suppose MN is supposed to pray while reading and that is supposed to suddenly bring the words into focus?
Second, read it intelligently.
Um, but reading the Bible straight through with an open mind has a habit of actually turning people away from faith rather than toward it. I know that I found actually reading the Bible to be an eye-opening experience... and not in a good way.
Christ is the center of the Bible’s message, and rather than start at the beginning of the Bible, I suggest you first read through one of the Gospels (I recommend John).
There's the tried and true apologist Bible reading tactic! Tell them to read the New Testament since it has a lot less horrors in it's pages than the Old Testament. They know that they'll probably get tired of reading even before they finish reading the NT and will never finish it, let alone the OT. This limits the reader actually reading the many horrors, absurdities, and outright errors in the Bible and realizing that it's just as mythical as every other holy book that preceded it.

-Brain Hulk

Please share, subscribe, comment and follow us on your favorite social networking sites!
facebook | google+ | twitter

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Little does not equal worthless

Frank Schaeffer may be better known for his odd book Why I'm an atheist that believes in God, but he recently penned a blog about atheism and worth that quite misses the mark...
Sagan played for higher stakes than Duchamp had. He attempted to “de-deify” our entire species. His beautiful, secular psalm dedicated to our demotion is unsurpassed. In Psalm 8, King David described us as only a little lower than the angels while in Pale Blue Dot, Sagan takes great pains to obliterate any sense of cosmic significance:
How does Sagan's Pale Blue Dot do a disservice to humanity? The Pale Blue Dot speech that Sagan made famous on his Cosmos TV series is both inspirational and humbling. Here's what he said:
We succeeded in taking that picture and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you know, everyone you love, everyone you’ve ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines. Every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there—on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. 

This is not a quote about humanity being meaningless or worthless, but about the amazing scale of the cosmos.
Yet even post-Sagan, we value life so highly that we seek it elsewhere in the universe as if on a quest for the Holy Grail. The secular theology of nothingness is in conflict with itself. Ever since Darwin published On the Origin of Species, we learn that all living things are intrinsically equal. We’re no longer “suspended above nature” as if by some metaphysical “skyhook,” as the militantly secular philosopher Daniel Dennett puts it. We are nature herself, at her worst. And yet scientists strive to find signs of life elsewhere, life that presumably would be as ultimately insignificant as our own.
Where is Frank getting the idea that any of this means nonbelievers view human life as insignificant. The very significance of life is why we are looking for it elsewhere. And Frank thinking Sagan was slighting humanity with the pale blue dot, betrays how little he apparently knows of Sagan. Carl also said:
We are in the cosmos and the cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.
We may be small, but we give consciousness to the universe. We are far from insignificant, and Sagan states as such!

I have a nagging question though: if we’re nothing, why bother to convince us of our nothingness? Who cares? I would like to have asked Sagan why he bothered to write with such poetic skill and beauty about the meaninglessness of writing, given our transitory and diminutive place in the universe.
And my question would be if Frank is being deliberately obtuse. Pointing out that the universe is so staggeringly huge does not impact the worth of life. Also, he acts as though there is  no middle-ground between 'we are what it is all about and the most important of all beings' and 'we are worthless'. We may not be the be-all end-all, but we certainly aren't nothing. Life is still big to us, and important as well. The claim that life is worthless to Sagan and other non-believers is nothing but patently false.

-Brain Hulk

Please share, subscribe, comment and follow us on your favorite social networking sites!
facebook | google+ | twitter