Monday, June 30, 2014

Devil in disguise

Every once and a while Billy Graham likes to take on the big serious questions. Like what Satan looks like... *sigh* Is this for real?
QUESTION: What does the devil look like? I know he’s often pictured in a red suit with horns and a pitchfork and all that, but if he actually appeared to us I’m not sure we’d recognize him. What do you think? — Mrs. J.Y.
JY wants to know what the devil looks like. I wonder why she didn't just ask an atheist. After all, we're obviously all card carrying followers of the dark lord. Okay, I'll let you in on a secret. He's what Satan looks like... Picture someone in a slick dark suit, but take away the suit... and he's also invisible. There you go! The devil looks like nothing, because he doesn't freaking exist!
ANSWER: For centuries, people have tried to picture what Satan must look like, and I find it interesting that he’s almost always portrayed as something repulsive, evil and violent. Anything that pictures him as cute or harmless is misleading – for he’s anything but that.
It is interesting that Satan is pictured as repulsive, evil and violent. Odd even, because those traits sound like they fit the genocidal sadist that is the god of the Bible far better than they fit the devil. Call me crazy, but the guy that only kills 10 people in the Bible doesn't seem as bad as the guy who kills everyone, by comparison.
In reality, however, the Bible doesn’t tell us what Satan looks like – and with good reason, for he’s not limited to any physical form or image. Instead, Satan is a powerful spiritual force that pervades the whole creation, far greater than any person or beast or other creature. He is not as powerful as God, nor is he eternal like God; someday his power will come to an end. But don’t limit him to the mental image you may have of a pitchfork-carrying person in a red suit.
He's not as powerful as God, not eternal like God, is messing up everything, yet God just sits back and does nothing about it? Talk about terrible management! God is either inept, or gets off on watching suffering. Neither is a glowing review by any stretch...
At the same time, the Bible indicates that at times Satan and his demons may take on human form. In his attempts to deceive us, the Bible says, he may even seem like a messenger from God: “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). If our lives are built on Christ and His Word, however, we will not be deceived.
Satan will masquerade as an angel of light? News flash Billy! Lucifer literally means 'light bearer'. Did you consider the possibility that maybe he's not pretending to be an angel of light? Maybe he actually is one.

Satan can take human form and can appear to be a messenger of God? Wait! What if Satan was Jesus! Think about it... He is supposedly messing with all God's plans. But what if the Jews had it right? Satan pretends to be the son of God to lead people away from Judaism. By worshiping Jesus/Satan, they are worshiping a false god. Doing so put's them on God's bad side and wins them a ticket to Hell. Maybe it's not even God's Bible, but Satan's. Now that would be a good con, and exactly the kind Christians would have you believe Satan is capable of. Seriously, do these guys even consider the possible implication of their own arguments?

-Brain Hulk

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Sunday, June 29, 2014

One email, under God

Ah, it's the email about the Pledge of Allegiance again. I must have seen this at least a hand-full of times through the years...
Shock to NBC !!!!!
As you are aware, the Knights of Columbus submitted to congress that the words "Under God" should be added to our pledge of allegiance.
Actually, I think you will find that  most Americans are completely clueless about that fact. Sad, but true.
Both Houses of Congress passed the law and it was signed by President Eisenhower in 1954
Yes, it was added in 1954, yet most Americans simply assume it's always been there... In fact, that's one of the most common arguments I've heard for leaving 'under God' in the Pledge. People saying that we should leave God in it as it was originally written. Yet history proves that those that want God removed are actually the ones wanting to honor the original intent and version of the Pledge.
The information below was based on a pole taken by NBC on what percentage should keep the words in our pledge verses the percent who want it removed If you read this and agree that "under God should be left in the pledge, then just forward it to others and you have voted for it to be left in. If you delete it and don't forward it you are voting NO to "under God." Easy huh!
How about reply that I think it should be removed? Can I pick that choice?

Official versions
(changes in bold italics)
"I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands: one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all."
1892 to 1923
"I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the republic for which it stands: one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all."
1923 to 1924
"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States  and to the republic for which it stands: one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all."
1924 to 1954
"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands; one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all."
1954 to Present
"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America , and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

This is not sent for discussion. If you agree, forward it... If you don't, delete it. I don't want to know one way or the other. By my forwarding it, you know how I feel.
Threatened censorship. Isn't that cute... Sounds like someone isn't very open minded. I'm always open to hearing an opposing view. I likely won't agree, but there's the chance I could learn something. I have nothing to gain by arrogantly declaring that those who don't agree better not even bother talking to me.
Do you believe that the word God should stay in American culture?

NBC this morning had a poll on this question. They had the highest Number of responses that they have ever had for one of their polls, and the Percentage was the same as this:

86% to keep the words, IN God We Trust and God in the Pledge of Allegiance, 14% against.

That is a pretty 'commanding' public response.

I was asked to send this on if I agreed or delete if I didn't.

Now it is your turn. It is said that 86% of Americans believe the word God should stay. Therefore, I have a very hard time understanding why there is such a mess about having 'In God We Trust' on our money and having God in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Actually, 86% of people answering a on online pole question in the affirmative does not mean that 86%  of Americans actually feel that way. For one, people anywhere in the world can usually take these polls. The results can be heavily skewed by people voting multiple times from multiple computers, creating a vote bot, or calling on an online community to flood in votes. Online poles are not at all scientific and can often be unreliable. Case in point, I've seen these same questions polled with very different results. I even recall one of a Christian site where about 90% voted that God should be removed from the Pledge and money.
Why is the world catering to this 14%?
I think it's hilarious that the email suggests that anyone is catering to non-believers. We are consistently one of the most distrusted, and discriminated against of minorities in the US.  On a worldwide scale, we are actually the third largest 'theological' group (and fastest growing). But since this email is concerned with American policy lets focus domestically...

When it comes to policy, we base decisions on the law, not what the majority think. If the majority of Americans wanted to be allowed to hunt Bald Eagles, the government wouldn't just say "Okay!" and hand you a rifle. Instead it would reference that law that these majestic birds are protected creatures.

The same should be true of the Pledge. It's the law that matters, not what the majority thinks. If 8 million people believe something foolish, it's still foolish. There is a case to be made that having God included in such a way violates the first amendment. But let's look at the silly claim that law should be made by majority rule...

Why do the majority allow the 16+% Americans without a religious preference to speak? Well, why does the majority allow the 13% of Americans that are African-American to have rights? They are a smaller minority than those that claim no religious preference. So they should be even less important, right? Oh, and at times the majority of people thought that keeping black slaves was perfectly fine. So it must have been fine, right? Majority rules! What about women? The majority used to say they shouldn't be allowed to vote. Why did we ever change that? Equal application of the law.

If you're so in favor of majority rules. What if Muslims become the majority and want the Pledge to say 'under Allah'?  You'd be fine with that, right?

Many times throughout history, what the majority agreed on was eventually found to be unfair, and/or in violation of the law. That is the same case being made for the Pledge. Like it or not, if something is unconstitutional, it's unconstitutional. Popularity shouldn't matter.
If you agree, pass this on. if not, simply delete.
 There's that close-mindedness again... I'll pass it on alright.  But only after setting the record straight!

-Brain Hulk

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Team Sydni

While I know I have readers across the globe, I know I probably don't have the audience to make this work as well as I'd like. But you know what? I'm sure as hell going to try!

One of my friend's children has been diagnosed with Leukemia. A beautiful little girl that certainly doesn't deserve the hand that's been dealt her. While Sydni is being treated, help is always welcome. So I hope that some will be able to help pitch in to aid in her treatment and recovery.

This is a wonderful family, and I count her mother among my fondest friends. I met Sydi's mother over a decade ago when I had the pleasure of working with her. She, I and a few others made a great team that actually made work fun. A true friend that doesn't judge, and you can trust. Actually, she was among the first (outside my parents) that I entrusted with the knowledge that I was an atheist. A fact that didn't faze her or stand in the way of our friendship. In fact, I still haven't told my aunts or uncles... But Julie knows. 

As life does, time, a new job and marriage meant that we lost touch for a while. Something that I regret. Especially when I just learned of Sydni's diagnosis the other day. I still remember Julie bringing her by and showing off her baby girl. A look of pride in her eyes that I am sure is still present when she looks at the brave little girl who is fighting her internal menace. 

Sydni is a fighter, and I have every hope that she will prevail. But lets help her out! If you can spare a few buck, please chip in on her donation page: DONATE HERE

Through our combined efforts, we can help Sydni win her battle. So what are we waiting for? Lets do this!

-Brain Hulk

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Collected nonsense

There were a few other Billy Graham stories the past week that had quotes that were worth responding to, but I didn't feel were deserving of an independent blog for each article.
(on missionaries) They also will be able to help in practical ways, even if they can’t meet every need. Teaching the Bible to children in the community… helping repair the roof on a church… digging a ditch to pipe in clean water… the list of possibilities is almost endless.
One of these things is not like the others... While missionaries can help people by actually doing good for them, the sad truth is that most go to simply teach the word of God. This is not helping. It is actually a rather presumptuous waste of time. There people need food and water, not Bibles!
(on being a  single mom who's kids are now off to college) I suspect you aren’t only bored but also depressed, because you feel like you’re no longer useful or of much value to anyone. This isn’t true, of course, but your feelings are understandable.
Is this mother's reaction really all that surprising since they no longer have their kids to care for? Biblically, women are for giving birth and taking care of kids. With that gone, she's left with the default Christian teaching that all are worthless, terrible sinners. Is there any surprise she misght be depressed?
After all, God isn’t like a harsh policeman or a cruel judge, just waiting for you to get out of line so he can punish you.
Correct, God won't wait for you to cross the line. Instead he sentences you to eternal torment before you are even born. What more, he counts the theft of a $0.25 pack of gum equal to being a serial killer. That doesn't sound remotely fair... Oh, but if the killer knows Jesus, he gets set free, while the one time gum thief gets death. That's not justice at all!
Actually, considering that he was a Christian, he
wouldn't even need to pray on his death bed.
After all, the person who’s in the most danger spiritually is the one who feels no need for God’s forgiveness. He or she is like someone walking around with a deadly cancer growing inside them — and yet ignoring it until it’s too late. Sin is like a deadly cancer, for unless we’re cleansed from it, it will destroy us.
Not quite... We know that cancer exists, unlike 'sin'. We can detect and confirm that we have cancer. There are also multiple different treatments for cancer. Furthermore, we can get a second, third and fourth opinion on whether or not the cancer is there. With 'sin' God invented it and is also the only one that says that you have it. What's worse, with original sin, he put it there to begin with. I can't think if any doctor inserting a tumor so that he could then diagnose it and claim to have the only treatment for it.

-Brain Hulk

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Five ways to stump an atheist?

I ran across an article on Therefore, God Exists that claims to provide five ways to stump an atheist. But how effective are their five suggestions?
There are certainly more than 5 ways to stump an atheist. I saw Stephen Colbert stump Richard Dawkins, and Colbert was just giving satirical answers, attempting to mock common answers that fundamentalists offer. Dawkins asked his signature question, “who created God?” Colbert replied, “Well, God is beyond time.” Dawkins really had no answer to this. He said, “Well, that is so easy to say.” Indeed, it is easy. It is an easily refuted argument.
I don't think the author of this article understood what Dawkins said. The point that it is easy to claim that God is 'beyond time'. One can also just as easily claim that a great cosmic sandwich, Godzilla, or the great Goddamnly Cat is beyond time. The point Dawkins was making is that people can casually claim whatever they want, it's the backing it up that's the hard part. So people can claim that God is beyond time, but it is a meaningless claim since it can't be backed up. Furthermore, what if the claim that God is older than time is countered by saying that the energy of which the universe is comprised is older than time? You are then left with a stalemate, but certainly not a stumped atheist.
But it is very easy to stump them. In this article, I will lay out 5 ways to stump an atheist.
This hasn't been my experience, so we'll see about that...
1 – Ask how they know that God has no reasons for allowing evil. 
Atheists like to say that if God did not exist, there would be no evil and suffering. But how do they know that? They suggest that since God is omnipotent and loving, he would stop evil. But what if he has perfectly good reasons to allow it? If I am clipping a dogs nails, they may think I am torturing them, from their limited perspective. But I have perfectly good reasons for allowing them to go through pain and suffering. The same when a child gets a shot. The parent knows that they are going through pain and suffering, but allows it for a greater good. I suggest that it is possible that God has reasons for allowing pain and suffering. How do you know that he does not? STUMPED.
Since when do atheists claim that? Sure, many atheists (myself included) feel that religion is a huge source of hurt and conflict in the world. But this certainly isn't a claim that there would be no suffering in the world at all. Just look at nature for one example. Nature is cruel and doesn't pull punches. In this survival of the fittest, there is plenty of beauty, but plenty of suffering as well.

Also, the claim that God allows suffering because he has a reason is lacking. This god is supposed to be all-powerful, as well as all-loving. If that is the case, he doesn't need to allow suffering to make a point. He would be able to make his will know without subjecting his people to suffering. And if he needlessly allows suffering that he is able to prevent and instead just watches by, that makes him sadistic.

2 – Ask what they would accept as evidence for God’s existence. 
Atheists usually say that they are just sitting around waiting for evidence for God’s existence. When evidence is provided, they will believe. Since there is no evidence, they refuse to believe. But David Silverman seemed to suggest that there is no evidence that he would accept. I asked him, “what is the difference between a God of the Gaps argument, and a deductive argument leading to the conclusion that God exists?” He said that they were the same thing. Silverman does not accept deductive arguments leading to the conclusion that God exists. He sweeps them under the rug, hastily labeling them ‘God of the Gaps.’ Christopher Hitchens similarly said that there is nothing that would change his mind. But, how can you ask me to provide evidence, if you do not even know what you are asking for? So, what would you accept as evidence? STUMPED.
I can't speak for others, but there is certainly a type of evidence that could change my mind. One type I can guarantee would work would be evidence of the scientifically testable and verifiable variety.  Are there other types that could work? Perhaps. It would likely depend on the details and strength of the case. But if God is really all-knowing as it is claimed, he already knows exactly what would change my mind.

Oh, and one semantic point... I do not refuse to believe. Belief is not something we choose. It's not that I actively refuse to believe. That's impossible. Rather, I just don't believe because I am not convinced by the case made for God.

3 – Ask if they would believe in miracles if they saw one.

David Hume suggested that if a wise man is to see a miracle, he ought not believe in it. That seems to be the stance of the modern atheists. Thinking themselves intellectual elitists, they will ask questions like, ‘why cannot God heal amputees?’ The suggestion is that the miracle-workers roaming around are just playing magic tricks. But real miracles, like the healing of an amputee, cannot happen. So if the atheist saw a miracle, they would not believe it. If there was cold, hard evidence of the supernatural right before their eyes, they would still find a way to a deny it. A friend of mine told me that if the clouds randomly formed the sentence, ‘The Bible is God’s word,’ he still would not believe it. This is not rational skepticism. It is outright denialism. That is what atheism is. Yet they do not want to admit that. So ask them, would you believe in miracles if you saw one? STUMPED.
This is a bit of a meaningless question if the term 'miracle' isn't properly defined. Are we talking about statistically unlikely events, or happenings that should be impossible? This is a valid question, as all claimed miracles that have ever been tested were either just unlikely events or explainable scientifically. If a deity was not required for these supposed miracles to take place, are they really deserving of the title? I'd say not. But back to the question at hand... What if I was faced with a miracle? A 100% verified miracle... Would I believe in miracles? Yes. Next question!

4 – Ask them if the cause of nature could be natural.
The atheist will usually want to say that everything in the universe can be explained in natural terms. But what about nature itself? A man cannot be his own father. Nature cannot cause itself. It did not exist prior to its’ existence. Before nature existed, it had no causal properties. Therefore, there must have been cause beyond nature to bring it into existence. The cause of nature, therefore, must be supernatural. Nature could not have caused itself to exist any more than a man could be his own father. So ask the atheist if the cause of nature could be natural. STUMPED.
This one displays a gross misunderstanding of terms and a drawing of false equivalency. When something is described as 'natural', it abides by the natural laws. We aren't talking about a man creating himself, but the universe and it's creation following the laws of nature. This isn't a case of a person being their own father at all. We do not know what (if anything) preceded the Big Bang. Perhaps there was previous universe. Maybe vacuum fluctuation got the ball rolling. Maybe it was something else. Natural, in the sense we are speaking here, is what we can understand and explain. It is a product of our own knowledge and understanding. God is considered supernatural, because he would violate natural law. But if we were to one day verify and understand God, he would become part of a natural model. So yes, since I believe that we can figure out the answers to these hard questions, I feel that 'nature' can be and is natural.

5 – Ask if they believe that people who do bad things deserve to be punished.
This is something that everybody acknowledges. People who do bad things deserve to be punished. Yet this is also the foundation for the doctrine of Hell. People who do bad things come under God’s condemnation. If a court judge were to just free man, he would be a corrupt and an immoral judge. God is not a corrupt or immoral judge. He must punish people for doing bad things. In answering this question in the affirmative, they are conceding the rationale for the doctrine of Hell. So ask them if they believe that people who do bad things deserve to be punished. STUMPED
What are we considering 'bad things'? If someone tells a lie and no one is harmed in any way, does that mean they should be legally punished? What if they read a dirty magazine or lusted after a person other than their spouse? Should they go to jail? What if they lusted, but decided to remain true? The Bible would punish them eternally, but should we lock up someone who didn't actually do anything? I would consider it rather extreme to legally punish someone for these 'doings'.

For those reasons, lets equate 'doing bad things' to breaking the law. If someone breaks the law, do I feel that they should be punished? Yes. But that's where the similarity with Hell ends. I do not feel that finite crimes should be punishable eternally, and with torture no less. Let us not forget that the Christian Hell is not the first underworld of it's sort that was dreamed up.

Oh, and I agree with the author's assertion that a judge that just lets the known guilty walk without punishment would be a corrupt and immoral judge. In the same way, God is just as corrupt and immoral. Remember, Christianity teaches that every single sin (except for blaspheming the Holy Ghost) will be overlooked if you except Jesus. Doing so will earn you a place in Heaven in avoidance of Hell. Just like the judge, God is letting people guilty of sin (breaking the law/doing wrong) just go free instead of punishing them. Even worse, God would punish those that didn't do anything wrong (the innocent) just because they didn't believe or believer in the wrong god.

So yes, I feel that those that do wrong should be held accountable. But once more, I am NOT STUMPED!
Atheists are afraid to comment on this article because they are stumped by all of these questions.
Really? I take it that the author didn't bother to take a look at the many comments at the bottom of this article. Also, I wasn't afraid to take on this list at all. The arguments were quite pedestrian and easily answered. I wasn't remotely close to being stumped on this end. For the author's sake, I certainly hope these weren't his top five...

-Brain Hulk

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Devil in the details

Don't worry, the Doctor tossed him into a black hole.
The Devil? Tell the truth? That's the silly question posed by one of Billy Graham's readers...
DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: Does the devil ever tell the truth? I guess that’s a strange question, but I got into something I was convinced would make me happy, and I was wrong. The only thing I can figure out is that the devil must have told me I’d be happy, and I believed him. — S.F.
I agree, that is a strange question. But mostly because the devil doesn't exist.
DEAR S.F.: If the devil were responsible for convincing you that you’d be happy doing these things, was he telling the truth? No, certainly not. Jesus warned, “When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

Even when the devil appears to be telling the truth, he isn’t, because his only goal is to turn us against God and trap us into doing his will instead of God’s will. Do you remember the temptations that came to Jesus? (Matthew 4:1-11) Every one of them sounded reasonable and very tempting, but their sole purpose was to turn Jesus away from God’s plan for his life.

Read more here:
 The Devil can't lie? How do you figure? He allegedly ruined God's creation by telling Eve the truth about God's apparent lie...
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
-Genesis 2:16-17
Okay, so God says that eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil will cause you to die that very day. Then the Devil comes along...
And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
-Genesis 3:4-5
And anyone who has ever read the Bible is already aware that Adam and Eve didn't die that day, and their eyes were opened to good and evil. So the Devil did tell the truth. In fact, it looks more like God was the one lying. Two further notes on this story... 1) Eve wasn't created (Genesis 2:22) until after God's command not to eat from the tree. But she knew about it when the Devil tempted her. So did Adam tell her? Did he convey the command accurately? 2) Is anyone else slightly disturbed by how concerned God was about finding out Adam and Eve were no longer naked? The first thing he does after finding Adam and Eve (post tree) is to question why they aren't naked and how they knew they were naked. He comes across as a sexual deviant that just sits around staring at Adam & Eve's genitalia all day...
 Does this mean Satan’s advice (however it comes to us) is always obviously bad or clearly evil? No, not necessarily. Sometimes he uses half-truths to deceive us; he may even promise us wonderful things. But such promises are never true. The Bible warns that at times “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).
Except for the fact that in Genesis, he told the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth. In fact, I can't recall an example of the Devil telling a lie in the Bible... But it's ironic that Billy says that the Devil can't tell the truth. While in Christianity Satan = enemy/adversary/deceiver, that's not all it has meant. In one of the oldest languages (Sanskrit) older variations of 'Satan' actually meant 'truth'.
That's what I call irony!

Furthermore, 'Lucifer' means 'light bearer'. Again, this sounds the very opposite of sinister. If Satan is God's enemy, does that mean his enemy is actually the light of knowledge? If God's against knowledge, I'm against god. Simple as that.
Make it your goal to listen to God and seek his will in everything. Satan hates you, but God loves you, and his Son died on the cross to save you. Make the Bible, which is God’s Word, part of your life every day, asking God to use it to teach you his truth and help you do what’s right. And when you face decisions, always ask God to guide you.
God = total pervert
How is it Satan that hates us if God is the one that plans to send everyone to eternal torment in Hell? And if Lucifer was real, how would we know he is the bad guy? The only one who is saying he is bad if his supposed enemy. Not exactly an unbiased source. And even in the text that says that Satan is evil, Satan only kills around 10 while God kills millions. God sets an impossible standard that he knows no one will be able to meet and rejects you for failing to meet it, yet Satan takes you as you are. Sorry, but God sounds like to bad guy.

All that said, I don't believe in or follow the Devil. But it really makes me wonder how Christians that actually read the Bible don't strain themselves trying to perform the mental gymnastics necessary to consider the god of the Bible to be the 100% just and perfect hero of the book.

-Brain Hulk

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Catholics aren't Christian?

This occurs far too often for me to not feel dismayed. I'll be discussing religion with a believer when the discussion will turn to a specific aspect of religion or belief. Often, I'll provide an example to help make my point. But when I mention the Catholic church's mistreatment of Galileo, or the horrible Catholic church sex abuse scandal I'll be met with a deceleration that Catholics aren't Christian...

This leads to two reactions on my part. First I'll simply provide a non-Catholic example. Secondly, there is no other appropriate reaction other than to wonder if the person you're speaking with has the slightest of a clue! But it's not just your average Joe on the street that makes this claim. The human 'face palm' factory, Ray Comfort has said that not only are Catholics not Christian, and don't use or teach the Bible, but went so far as to ban it!

Lets start first with the claim that Catholicism isn't a version of Christianity... Have these people never seen a Catholic church? As a former Catholic, I can't help but wonder. Sure, Catholicism may treat the virgin Mary with a bit more importance than other Christian sects. But the giant statue of Jesus on the cross displayed in the church and the crucifix's worn by many Catholics should be dead giveaways that Catholics are Christians.

The Catholic Church does in fact teach of Jesus as lord and savior, and that only through him may you receive salvation. When compared to other religious services I've attended, only the format and details are different. Different music, different 'feel' to each service, but the overall broad message of Christianity remains the same. So yes, Catholics are Christians.

Do they use and teach the Bible? Let's just say that when I was in CCD school, the Bible was considered a text book. Also, walk into any Catholic church and you will find in the pew in front of you a copy of the the Bible. (When I was a Catholic, it was the King James version our church had.) A text that every service includes readings from that the pastor will oft ask you to follow along with as he reads. By now it should be obvious that the claim that Catholics don't use the Bible is a rather absurd one.

But did the Catholic church ban the Bible? Well, sort of... Long ago, the church granted congregations the right to ban certain versions of the Bible. Not the Bible in general mind you. After all there is no such thing as the Bible. They are all just several different translations and versions of the Bible. So the church simply said that 'X' is the version that we think is the most accurate, and the
Yes, this Bible and Rosary are sure symbols of a
non-Christian religion. How silly of me to think people that
worship the Christ and Christians...

others shouldn't be used. Something that's not so hard to understand. Catholics today may use the King James version, or one of the Catholic translations. Some Christian churches use the New International version. Others use the American Standard version. And the list goes on and on. Just as Ray Comfort probably has his favorite translation, so does the Catholic Church.

The final thought I'm left with is this. If someone can't understand something as basic as the fact that Catholics are Christians, why should I assume they are remotely knowledgeable on the faith that they are attempting to debate with me? After all, if a person can't boil water, they'll never be able to make spaghetti (FSM be praised!)...

-Brain Hulk

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The presidency requires faith?

Over at, Jim Ketchum write an article titled You need faith to be president.
Picture this: It is inauguration day, Jan. 20, 2017.
The new president prepares to take the oath of office. Except this time it’s different. The new president is an atheist — doesn’t believe in God, puts no stock in the resurrection or the afterlife and would much rather shoot a round of golf on Sunday morning after sleeping late.

How do you swear in an atheist president? Since the Bible is out, would the new leader of the free world place his or her left hand on a copy of the Constitution? Or maybe the collected works of Charles Darwin?
I'd go with the Constitution. While Darwin discovered an amazing and important truth, he isn't our Jesus.
It won’t happen the next time around, but popular opposition to an atheist president may be weakening.
I can only hope. I've actually been told that I'd (ironically) make a great preacher or politician. With how terrible our choices have been lately, I've briefly weighed the notion of public service. But it's good that Americans are growing less clueless about atheists, albeit far too slowly.
America never has elected a nonbeliever as chief executive, but it has had three who expressed no formal religious affiliation.
Actually, we may have. We just never had a president directly tell us he was a nonbeliever.
Eleven of the country’s 44 presidents have been Episcopalians. They include George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, James Madison, Michigan’s own Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush.

President Washington's religion isn't definitively known. Washington was private about religion. There are reports that he refused communion, he participated in the Anglican church, he left church services early leaving his wife behind, it is questionable that he believed in the afterlife, he never mentioned Jesus in any of his letters, and used a lot of deistic terms. He did believe, but it is very likely that he may have been a deist rather than a Christian.
Presbyterians come second. They’ve sent eight members to the White House. Among them are Woodrow Wilson (a deeply religious Princeton University professor who scholars believe might have been our most brilliant president), Grover Cleveland, Andrew Jackson, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan.
 Isn't it funny how ultra-religious Republicans just love Regan, but his son, Ron Jr. is an atheist!
Four Baptists have made it: Warren Harding, Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

Four Methodists also won: U.S. Grant, Rutherford Hayes, William McKinley and George W. Bush.

Four Unitarians got in: John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams, Millard Fillmore and William Howard Taft.
This is what clueless looks like. It would seem that the apple
doesn't fall far from the tree.
While it is likely that Adams may have been a Christian, there were some points in which he was quoted such that he sounded more like a deist. But even if he was a Christian, it was under his presidency that it was officially declared that "The United States in in no sense founded upon the Christian religion."
The Disciples of Christ gave us James A. Garfield and Lyndon Johnson.
Dutch Reform presidents were Martin Van Buren and Theodore Roosevelt.
Herbert Hoover and Richard Nixon were Quakers.
Calvin Coolidge was our only Congregationalist. John F. Kennedy was the first and, so far, only Catholic and, while Barack Obama is not a member of a specific body of worshipers, he was until 2008 a member of a United Church of Christ congregation in Chicago.
There has not been a single Lutheran in the bunch. That’s OK. We Lutherans don’t like to make a big fuss. A Lutheran president probably would be happy to serve a diplomatic potluck luncheon in the East Room.
 Hmm... I see a few names conspicuously missing...
Personally, I like the idea of a president who believes in God. The job probably is the most daunting, high-stress, thankless task on the planet. And, at $400,000 a year, the pay isn’t that good.That’s why a president needs all the help he or she can get.
That's it? This article says that the presidency requires faith, yet the only thing offered is that Jim 'likes the idea' of a religious president... Talk about a weak argument! I'd like a scientifically literate president, but that doesn't mean that a president needs to know his science (clearly).

And what does money have to do with it. Atheists give to charity. We volunteer, we serve in the military... quite frankly, we're everywhere. Statistically, we may usually make more, but we also do things for free and little pay as well. I'd be more than happy with $400,000 a year while trying to lead a county in the right direction.
Oh, about those three presidents who had no formal religious affiliation: Besides Andrew Johnson, the other two were Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson.Come to think of it, they probably would have made pretty good Lutherans.
How do you figure? Jefferson was oft quoted on religion. He was almost certainly a Deist. He even wrote his own version of the Bible  where he left Jesus as no more than a moral human teacher, and removed all the supernatural parts. He did not believe in Christianity or the Christian miracles, so that would get in the way of being a Lutheran, I'd say.

Lincoln was another interesting character. While he is quoted saying things that sound rather Christian, he has also been quoted as saying:
"My earlier views of the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of salvation and the human origin of the scriptures, have become clearer and stronger with advancing years and I see no reason for thinking I shall ever change them."
"The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession."
"Oh, that is some of Seward's nonsense, and it pleases the fools." (in response to a question about his religious Thanksgiving speech)
"There was the strangest combination of church influence against me. Baker is a Campbellite; and therefore, as I suppose with few exceptions, got all of that Church. My wife had some relations in the Presbyterian churches, and some in the Episcopal churches; and therefore, wherever it would tell, I was set down as either one or the other, while it was everywhere contended that no Christian ought to vote for me because I belonged to no Church, and was suspected of being a Deist and had talked of fighting a duel."
To me, Lincoln sounded like either a Deist or non-believer that spoke in Christian tones for political reasons. But again, how could a non-Christian make a good Lutheran?

And finally, some historians actually consider Johnson to be the least religious president (I'm not so sure that is a very accurate conclusion). He sometimes attended Methodist, Baptist, and Catholic services. He considered himself a generic follower of the Bible and Jesus though... So I'd say that Jefferson and Lincoln were the least religious. And wouldn't you know, it was Jefferson that brought us that valuable wall of separation between church and state, and Lincoln did what God never thought to do, and freed the slaves.

So no, I don't see a need for religious belief to be a president or even a good one.

-Brain Hulk

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Monday, June 23, 2014

No right or wrong

Is there right and wrong? And how do you convince someone who says there isn't? Billy Graham opines...
QUESTION: My brother-in-law says he doesn’t believe there’s such a thing as right and wrong, and that what’s right for one person may be wrong for someone else. I’ve tried to show him what the Bible says, but he just laughs at it. How can I convince him he’s wrong? — L.D.
I have a feeling that LD is probably misunderstanding his brother-in-law's position. More than likely, the claim being made was that there is no objective right and wrong. Meaning that right and wrong has not been divinely and eternally defined.

And if LD's brother-in-law laughed at the Bible as a claim that there are objective morals, it was for good reason. The fact is that the Bible itself actually defies that claim, and is actually a source for some terrible 'moral standards'.
ANSWER: It’s often hard to convince someone like this that they’re wrong, because they simply don’t want to believe they’re wrong. Instead, they’ll do everything they can to hold on to their position, no matter what you say – or what God says in His Word.
Kind of like just about every Christian I've ever debated? Believers have a habit of saying that nothing will ever change their mind. Yet most atheists, like me, will! Just show me some evidence...
Why is this?
Because non-believers are honestly seeking the evidenced truth and many believers prefer a reasuring story regardless of it's truth?
I don’t know your brother-in-law, of course, but people who say this often are determined to be free to do anything they want to. In other words, if they can convince themselves there is no right or wrong, then they think they can live without worrying about God or His moral standards. Like the people of Ezekiel’s day, “They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people” (Ezekiel 12:2).
Um... Sorry to disappoint you Billy, but that's not how we think. We aren't the 'do whatever we want' sort that you think we are. If anything, the fact that Christians are the majority of the prison population would suggest that believers are more likely to do whatever they want. And why shouldn't they? If they believe the Bible's message, then they believe that anything they do in life will be forgiven if they believe in Christ. Not exactly a system of justice conducive to lasting peace...

On the other hand, an atheists is typically a peaceful law abiding citizen. We follow the law, and do what we feel is right for ourselves and others. We simply don't believe that an objective standard for right and wrong exists. There are always exceptions, even if they are rare.

As for not living by God's moral standards... I'm damn glad that we don't. His standards included condoning slavery, punishing women for being raped, the killing of children who talk back or taunt, classing women as below men, punish a meal of lobster with eternal torture, the same for bacon, cotton-polyester clothing, and the list goes on and on.
What can you do? First, help your brother-in-law to realize just how illogical his position is. If there is no right or wrong (as he claims), does this mean it’s OK to murder, or abuse children, or steal, or persecute people we don’t like? No, of course not. Down inside, we all know that some things are always wrong, even if we deny it.
The thing is, that Billy is probably arguing against a straw-man here. It's much more likely that he stated that there is no objective right and wrong, not that there is no right and wrong at all. And as for the examples Billy gave... Well they are actually the kinds of things that the Bible does allow in various passages! 
But the most important thing you can do is to pray for him. Only God can convict him of his folly, and only God can convince him of his need for Christ. Right now, he’s on the wrong road in life, but God loves him, and with Christ his life can be changed. 
  Or maybe Billy and the other Christians are on the wrong road in life. Odin is going to be pissed...!

-Brain Hulk

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Almost two years

It has almost been two years since I've started this blog. Work still gets in the way, but I've luckily found time of late to write fairly regularly. But since the Brain Hulk page's anniversary is coming up in a couple weeks, I am opening a call for questions. Just use the contact form on the blog page to send me your questions, or simply post them as a comment on this blog. If I get enough, I will answer any of the questions that I can in a Q&A blog. They can be debating questions, theological, maybe even personal. Send 'em over and I'll answer as many as I can.

Also, don't forget that readers are always welcome to send me stories they think would be good to write a blog about, questions, comments, etc. And if you want to help support this work, grab a shirt or something from our shop. Heck, if you have any suggestions on growing this blog in any way, I'm all ears as well.

So with another year approaching, thank you for reading and hopefully we'll see increasingly more of each other as we enter our third year.

-Brain Hulk

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Save the bees!

Bees... They are feared by some, but the ecosystem depends on them. Sadly, things aren't looking good for these industrious little fellows. Over the past Winter 23.2% of the US honeybee population died off. As bad as losing nearly a quarter of our bees sounds, that was actually an improvement from the 30% losses we have seen in recent years. Still... 23.2% is still a higher rate of loss than the 18.9% that keepers consider sustainable.

In fact, a government report has stated that the rate of decline that honeybees are facing is too steep to guarantee the long term survival of the species. This is terrible news! So much relies on the humble bee. They pollinate countless plants. Without them, foods that rely of pollination will become more scarce or disapear. Some of it is food that we eat. Apples, berries, tomatoes, cucumbers... Without bees, they become much less plentiful. But bees also pollinate crops that we don't eat, but our livestock do. With less food for them, we are in turn left with less meat.

A recent Harvard study has confirmed that neonicotinoid poisons found in pesticides is the main cause of Colony Collapse Disorder. Okay, we found the problem so it should be easy to fix, right? Wrong... While Europe has banned the use of these poisons, we have not. Money has taken over politics after-all, and companies like Monsanto have tons of money and tons of lobbyists to buy politicians. It seems they would rather protect their short-term profits, than the long-term health of the ecosystem.

What should be more important... The rich getting richer, or the continued survival of apples, mangos, kiwi fruit, plums, peaches, nectarines, pomegranite, pears, black and red currant, alfalfa, okra, strawberries, onions, cashews, cactus, apricots, allspice, avocados, passion fruit, lima beans, kidney beans, green beans, orchids, cherries, celery, coffee, walnut, cotton, flax, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds and oil, lemons, figs, limes, carrots, cucumber, hazelnut, cantaloupe, coriander, chestnut, watermelon, coconut, tangerines, boysenberries, starfruit, brazil nuts, beets, mustard, broccoli, cauliflowe, cabbage, turnips, chili peppers, red peppers, bell peppers, green peppers, papaya, sesame, eggplant, raspberries, elderberries, blackberries, clover, cocoa, black eyed peas, vanilla, cranberries, tomatoes, grapes, etc...? Oh, and no more honey either!

a mason bee house
So what can you do about it. The easiest thing any of us can do is to not use pesticides in our gardens, and to plant flowers that are favorites of your local bee populations. A quick google search will tell you what flowers to plant in your area. But be careful... Flowering plants sold by big box stores have been found to have been treated with pesticides that actually kill bees. So rather than giving the little guys a helping hand, planting a tainted plant may actually be hastening their demise. 

If you are as concerned about the bee population as I am, you have probably planted bee friendly plants that were either sourced from a local nursery or grown from seed. You may have even flirted with the prospect of beekeeping. If you have the time, dedication, and space to keep honeybees, more power to you. I live in the city, so I don't have that luxury (or the time). I will be installing a 'bee house' in my back yard though. This isn't for honeybees, but rather Orchard Mason Bees. These little fellows are solitary, the males have no stinger, the female very rarely stings, and one female can do the pollination work of up to 200 honeybees. They do not live in colonies, or make honey, but they sure are industrious. 

one type of orchard mason bee
These little guys are native to North America (honeybees are from Europe), and if you like you can buy a pre-made mason bee house. Or you could do like me and build your own. Just get some untreated wood, drill 5/16" holes in it that are about 5" deep, place a roof on it to protect from rain, and place on the south side of a building. 

I will be using a cedar fence post so that I can make a mason bee hotel. They will pack the holes with nectar, lay an egg in it and seal the hole off with mud (each hole will have many egg chambers). They may not be honeybees, but they are the bees that I can help out. So help I shall! With any luck my garden will be thanking me with a wonderful bounty in the years to come.

-Brain Hulk

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