Friday, January 30, 2015

World's Greatest Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Brain Hulk

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

New Town, New Church?

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

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

-Brain Hulk

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Every Sin?

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

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

-Brain Hulk

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Beauty and Purpose

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

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

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

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

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

-Brain Hulk

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Who is Ben Carson?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Brain Hulk

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Billy: Contridicting the Bible

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

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

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

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

-Brain Hulk

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Russia: Tea Party Utopia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Brain Hulk

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

500 Posts

Yup, this is my 500th entry on this blog! To tell you the truth, when I started this page I thought I'd be out of things to write about somewhere closer to 50. While some of the news items have been aggravating, penning these blogs has been fun. That said, I plan to write a bit less for the next while. There are a few reasons, but the main one is time... I don't have enough of it!

My wife had suggested that I compile the many thoughts I have here into a book, and I've done that. Months ago actually... But the rough draft has sat unedited and I really do need to get around to that if I ever hope to actually publish it. The funny thing is that it doesn't even have a title yet. Maybe that's something I'll ask for ideas on once I have it edited and ready for formatting and cover design.

Then there is another funny little side project that popped into my head all of a sudden. In fact, it may end up being a joint project between me and my multi-talented wife.

So the plan for now is to post 2 or 3 blogs a week instead of the typical 5 a week that I've been writing. Hopefully this will allow me to get these other projects done, get to sleep at a proper hour, and get around to my growing pile of books that I want to read.

So this is me saying thanks for reading these first 500 posts, and looking forward to the next 500, even if it may take a bit longer.

-Brain Hulk

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Atheist - Defend your faith

I didn't realize that bloging on LinkedIn was a thing, but now I do after reading one by Jim Silence. His blog is supposed to be a challenge to atheists to defend our 'faith'... With him starting with such a poor starting point, lets say that I don't have very high hopes for anything that follows.
Okay, it is very simple. Not one atheist, not one can give an answer for their faith in nothing. Because that is exactly what it is. Faith in nothing.
What is he on about? Atheism is not faith in nothing. It is the lack of belief in gods. Atheists can and do believe in any number of other things. Call that faith if you will, but Jim starts out showing that he doesn't know what he's talking about.
They are not at all scientific or objective. They completely dismiss the scientific method in both their story of creation, as well as the Biblical account.
Um, how? The Biblical account of creation fails the scientific method, and that's a big reason many atheists reject that creation story (not to mention the many errors within). Also, many atheists love science and try to be as scientific and objective about as many things as they can. That's another reason many of us reject religious claims.

But what is this 'atheist creation story' Jim refers to? Atheism doesn't have a creation story. The closest thing atheism has to a creation story is the statement 'I won't believe any creations story until you show me the proof'. Maybe Jim thinks that the Big Bang is atheism's creations story, but it's not. The Big Bang is the scientific explanation for the universe. With most atheists being scientifically minded, that's why most atheists accept the Big Bang. But one can be an atheist and not accept the Big Bang without being any less an atheist.
They ignore, conjure, and falsify facts to fit their agenda. To prove that is what they do all you have to do is question them.
That sounds a lot more like the theists I've debated, but I'll bite... Question me!
The next time someone starts babbling on about big bangs, or evolution, or any such nonsense, ask them for proof? 
Wow... I sure hope that the theist has a couple free hours, because there really is that much proof. The Big Bang has red-shifting, cosmic microwave background radiation, images taken of incredibly old galaxies, distribution and concentration of elements to name but a few. And when it comes to evolution there's even more. Fossil record, vestigial traits, our own selective breeding, DNA evidence, the distribution of species, and the list goes on and on.
Ask them who programmed DNA? 
Who says it needs to have been consciously programmed? DNA arose from chemistry and the long march of time. What about RNA then? The origins were the same as DNA, but is Jim really prepared to argue that one was God and the other was natural?
Ask them to explain C14 in diamonds? 
In what concentrations? Carbon 14 is used for (accurately) dating things in the thousands of years. But it is only used for dating organic molecules. So if you are trying to date a diamond using Carbon 14, you are already doing it wrong. Additionally, the referenced 'C14 in diamonds' usually places the age as 20,000-40,000 years old which is still far older than the 6,000 or so years old those making this argument often claim the Earth to be. But what about the C14? There's no one size fits all answer, but it is usually either a faulty reading, or contamination of the sample from the surrounding soil or other organic traces.
Ask them to tell you what Job's Behemoth was?
Um... Isn't that the believer's job and not mine? I suppose this is supposed to be a 'gotcha' moment to claim that Job was describing a dinosaur. But the description offered in the verses does not entirely fit with any one known dinosaur. Sure, certain lines fit a dinosaur. But other lines fit other creatures alive and dead just as well. So my guess is that Job is describing some sort of mythical beast.
Ask them which chemical reactions, caused life, emotion, and free will? 
Seriously? Science has an idea about life, though it hasn't conclusively proven it yet. Look up abiogenesis some time... As for emotion, that's controlled by the brain. Free will? That sort of depends of what you mean by 'free will'. But if you are talking about the ability to make choices, again, that's the working of the brain.
Ask them who defines truth, and if there is good and evil? 
Who says there is no good or evil if there is no God? Good and evil are comparative terms that we have created to describe preferential situations and those that aren't. Good and bad are also no more than comparative terms. Who defines truth though? We all do! As a species and society we have slowly defined and refined morals. That is very well documented, so where is the mystery that Jim seems to think there is?
Ask them why they hate God, and what they do with their guilt?
I don't hate God. It's impossible to hate something that doesn't exist. Though the God character is pretty damn immoral and evil. But no, I don't hate God any more than I could hate a unicorn or pixie.

As for my guilt? If I wrong someone I make it right. If they forgive me, and I've made reparations I can learn from that to be a better person. Actually making amends is a far better system than passing your guilt to a third party without having to actually worry about whoever you actually wronged.
They have no answers. 
But we do have answers... To all of them!
 That’s why we are here in this forum. 
Actually, I'm here because this story came up in my google alerts...
 That’s why we don't talk to them at their level, because they try to bring us into their ignorance with them. 
I'm sorry, is it opposite day? Because this sounds more like it's talking about the average religious
apologist that I've debated. All talk and no substance...
They have no answer for why they believe in nothing.
Well, we don't 'believe in nothing' so there's that tiny little insignificant fact to consider...
I do have an answer for why I believe.
It's probably not a very good one though if it's anything like the reasons every other believer has given me.

But here's one very important point to consider... None of the questions Jim posed mater. Atheism doesn't claim to have answers to any of them. Atheism is only the lack of belief in God(s). The questions posed are independent positions/queries. They can all be easily answered by looking to science, history, logic and reason, or many other routes. But a lack of answers wouldn't impact atheism any more than a lack of concrete would make a pillow any less of a pillow.

-Brain Hulk

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Billy's Bad Answers

Time for more questions posed to Billy Graham...
Q: The holidays were really bad for me, because my company laid off a number of employees (including me) just a few weeks before Christmas. I'll get unemployment benefits and all that, but I feel so useless and depressed. You'll probably tell me to pray, but I don't even feel like it. What should I do? — H.T.
Life can be tough, no doubt. Many also feel depressed and defeated within jobs and without, and  many can surely relate. Some would simply state that it could always be worse, so you should look at the bright side. But I've never personally found that sentiment helpful. I don't think praying is the answer, so don't waste the time.

Take this as a chance to ask yourself if the career you were in is still the one for you. If not, see what you can do to transition to one you will enjoy. If the cost is prohibitive to change now, or if HT already likes what he does, the answer is to simply start the job search. What's available will certainly depend on the career and area, but that's the logical thing to do.
A: You're right: I do urge you to pray — because when we pray, we're admitting that we're helpless and can't solve our problems on our own. Isn't that your situation?
Actually no, that's not the situation here. HT was hit with losing his job at possibly the hardest time of the year for that to happen. This has left him depressed. He's not saying that there's nothing that can be done, and I've already illustrated that he does have a few options available.

And how is God the answer when so many teachings tell us of humanity as worthless and powerless on their own? I wouldn't consider that a healthy thing to tell someone who is already depressed.

DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: My cousin wants nothing to do with God. If he were a bad person or had messed up his life, then maybe he’d realize he needs God. But he’s not this way, and he just laughs at me and says he doesn’t see any reason to bother with God. How can I convince him otherwise? — A.G.
I don't think that sign means what they think it means...
Sounds like a kid that's on the right track to me... Why do so many Christians think that someone has to be broken in some way if they don't believe in God?
DEAR A.G.: You may not be able to convince him; it’s very hard to persuade an independent, successful, self-sufficient person that he or she really needs God. Their problem is pride, and pride refuses to make room for faith.
And Billy knows this how? I could easily offer the snarky response that maybe it's not pride that is
getting in 'the way', but rather reason or knowledge...

-Brain Hulk

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Friday, January 9, 2015

Paying for an atheist wedding

You just have to love it when a close-minded person writes a letter in for advice and gets an awesome answer that I'm sure they didn't expect. In this one a mother writes a letter into an "Ask Robin" column asking if they should pay for their son's wedding since he is an atheist. Robin's answer is great and worth a read, but I'm going to go ahead and answer as well here...
Dear Robin,

My son is getting married in June and his father and I committed to paying for the reception when he and his fiancé became engaged last year. He is our only child and we are thrilled he is getting married. And we love his fiancé! So what’s the problem?
I don't know... You found out how expensive that can actually cost these days? Do tell.
We raised our son in a very Christian household. He went to private Catholic school, including college, and religion has always been a central component of our lives. His grandparents, all of whom are still living, are also deeply religious.
So imagine my reaction when he announced there would be no mention of God during the ceremony and that rather than our family priest, he was having a friend conduct the wedding and that friend was ordained on the Internet!
So despite having religion crammed down his throat he is now an atheist? Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if all that religion caused him to look into it more and led to his non-belief. So it makes perfect sense that he would not want to have a religious wedding. Also what's more personal than having a good friend conduct the ceremony? This was actually an option that my wife and I considered before deciding to hire a secular celebrant.
Apparently my son and his future wife are atheist, which came as a very disturbing surprise to me and his dad.
Why would that be disturbing? Believers or not, they are still the same people you were happy for when you promised to pay for the wedding. They are still the same people you know and love. Why be bigoted or close-minded?
His father and I are deeply disappointed and angry. This is not how we raised our son.
So they raised their son to be mindless thought slaves that don't stand by their principles, don't compromise their beliefs, and just rolls over to the demands of anyone? Because if they raised their son to be himself, to stand by his beliefs, and not be a hypocrite then he is being exactly who they raised him to be.
Not only will we be very offended if God is ignored in the ceremony but I know his grandparents will be horrified.
Here's the thing... It's her son's wedding, not the parent's or the grandparent's! What maters is what the son and his wife to be want in their wedding.  And why the jump conclusion that anyone will be horrified? My wife and I both have Catholic families, yet we had a wedding without any mention of God. It was a nice ceremony of our design and not one person came forward saying they were horrified that we left out God, or that anyone even noticed.
We are considering withdrawing our offer to pay for the reception if he does not compromise and use our priest for a traditional Catholic wedding.
So what we have here is a childish and petty threat? They might as well yell "We want you to make your wedding all about us and not you, and if you don't I'm taking all my toys and going home!" This also isn't a compromise, but a unilateral demand. How would the parents have liked it if their parents demanded that they have a Muslim wedding like they are demanding their son have a Catholic one?
His fiancé’s parents don’t have very much money so I don’t think they can just pick up the tab, nor can my son, who is just beginning his career in insurance.
In which case they may just decide to have a courthouse wedding with the justice of the peace. I know that if I only had the options of a traditional Catholic wedding or courthouse wedding, I would have gone with the latter. So this threat to revoke the offer to pay for the wedding may still end in a non-religious wedding.
We would still attend the wedding but don’t want to contribute financially if it is going to be a huge slap in the face to our family and our religious beliefs.
But it's not a slap in the face to the family's religious beliefs. It is the son's wedding, not theirs! Her son is not trying to dictate how anyone else worships or what they believe, they are simply remaining true to themselves. 
Thoughts? My best friend thinks I am being unreasonable, but my husband and I are in total agreement on this issue.


Future Mother-in-law
Your friend is absolutely correct. You are being unreasonable! You are trying to force your religious beliefs on your son, and then are displaying your outrageous Christian persecution complex to try and make yourself out to be the victim when it is actually your son who is the one being wronged.

-Brain Hulk

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015


I'm sure we've all seen the chain email that claims that Mexico's immigration laws are an example that the United States should follow. Now, it isn't surprising that many of the laws listed actually aren't real Mexican immigration laws. But what if we take these laws at face value?
1. There will be no special bilingual programs in the schools.
In Mexico, bilingual programs do exist. But would that change anything in the US? When I graduated high-school, I did so without ever having to take a second language. And the students that do have to take a foreign language course have their choice of languages. But despite what the email would imply is the case, there's no nationwide motion to force all students to learn Spanish.
2. All ballots will be in this nation's language.
The USA does not have an official language, so this law would change nothing.
3. All government business will be conducted in our language.
This isn't true either, and just like #2, would change nothing.
4. Non-residents will NOT have the right to vote no matter how long they are here.
Non-residents in the USA already can't vote...
5. Non-citizens will NEVER be able to hold political office.
This is also already the case in the USA.
6. Foreigners will not be a burden to the taxpayers. No welfare, no food stamps, no health care, or any other government assistance programs. Any who are a burden will be deported.
Once more, USA non-citizens already can't take part in these programs. (Though children of illegal immigrants can be eligible if they are born in the US, and are thus US citizens.)
7. Foreigners can invest in this country, but it must be an amount at least equal to 40,000 times the daily minimum wage.
This rule is for those that want to become a permanent resident. The US already has a similar law.
8. If foreigners come here and buy land, their options will be restricted. Certain parcels including waterfront property are reserved for citizens naturally born into this country.
This is partial true. Foreigners in Mexico can own land, just usually not in their own name. Or you can obtain a 99% lease. But how is this an important law for the US? Mexicans buying up waterfront property in the US has hardly been a problem.
9. Foreigners may have NO protests; NO demonstrations, NO waving of a foreign flag, no political organizing, NO bad-mouthing our president or his policies. These will lead to deportation .
The US also has existing laws that can see you stripped of citizenship and even deported. But are demonstrations or speaking out really a problem?
10.. If you do come to this country illegally, you will be actively hunted and, when caught, sent to jail until your deportation can be arranged. All assets will be taken from you.
I don't know about the seizing of assets, but around here illegal immigrants are detained and then deported once they are found to be so.

So with all this considered, where is the supposed superiority in the Mexican system? It's sad that so many look at immigration with such contempt. Laws are important, but treating immigrants as less than human is never the answer.

-Brain Hulk

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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Hard year, hard truths?

Lets face it, not everyone will look back at 2014 fondly. Take Billy Graham's reader ZK for example...
 Q: I can't wait for this year to end. It's just been one problem after another -- family sickness, a couple of deaths, financial issues, you name it. I begged God to solve them, but nothing happened. Where was God in all this? -- Z.K.
This is a common question that many believers often answer with the terrible non-answer of God 'working in mysterious ways.'
A: The most important thing I can tell you is that God knew what was going on in your life, and He deeply cared about you, even if it didn't seem like it at the time.
For someone who supposedly cares, he sure has a funny way of showing it. I can just see all the love in what ZK has dealt with in 2014, can't you...?
Frankly, I wish I knew why God allows hard times to come to us, but I don't -- not fully.
Do you now Billy? Because it doesn't sound that way so far.
What I do know is that evil is real, and sometimes it seems to gain the upper hand, at least for a time.
It gains an upper hand? God is supposed to be all-powerful though, so the only way evil can gain an upper hand is if God lets it.
I also know that God knows all about evil and suffering...
Well he did create evil according to the Bible, so I sure hope he knows about it! 

I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
-Isaiah 45:7
When hard times come we can do one of two things: We can either become bitter and turn against God, or we can turn in faith to Him, and find in Him the strength and hope we need. Which will it be for you?
Or you could realize that those aren't the only two options and find strength in yourself and those you love. God is not needed to find strength no matter what Billy thinks.

-Brain Hulk

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Monday, January 5, 2015


I never make New Year's resolutions, but that's because I feel like they a a silly practice. If someone wants to make a change in their life there's no need to wait for the arbitrary date of a new year. Change can be done at any time if you want. Surrounding it with all the fanfare of a resolution just serves as a distraction. But some don't resolve for other reasons...
Q: Last year, I made a bunch of New Year's resolutions, and to be honest, I haven't kept a one of them. Why wasn't I able to I keep them? Maybe this year I should just forget about making any resolutions. — C.H.
God is a lot like Glenda. No help, tricks you into a pointless task,
and is just a massive waste of time.
Perhaps that's not a bad idea. A more serious approach may certainly be needed. But another big factor is what the resolutions where. Quite frankly, some people make some pretty absurd and outlandish
A: Perhaps the "resolutions" on your list weren't really resolutions at all, but merely a list of your wishes — things you would have liked to happen in your life but had no realistic plan to achieve.
There's nothing wrong with resolutions being wishes as long as they are achievable ones. Many wish they could lose weight or get in shape, but these are achievable and can become successful resolutions. There's a big difference between that and resolving to become a millionaire, or to turn yourself from 350lbs to a Victoria's Secret model in time for bathing-suit season.
But there's another reason why our resolutions often fail: We simply don't have the inner strength to carry them out. Temptations come, and we give in to them. Discipline is required, but we'd rather do what's easiest. What's right is clear to us, but we give in to the pressure of the crowd.
Billy is actually correct here. Having the will-power and inner strength to stick with it is the greatest roadblock that achievable resolutions can face.
This is one reason why we need Christ. When we put our lives into his hands, he comes to live within us by his holy spirit and begins to change us from within. He gives us a new desire to do what's right, and a new power to carry it out.
Oh the irony! Is Billy seriously suggesting that a teaching that tells us we are powerless is the solution to feeling powerless!? That's quite a poor pep-talk! AA and other Christian teachings and organizations assert that we are all powerless without God. In the case of AA they tell you that you are powerless over you addiction and that you can only beat it with God's help.

While Billy may latch on to the notion that 'God will help', the big message  here (in his world-view) is that people... all people are powerless and weak. I feel this is a sad depressing position that does a disservice to humanity.

Isn't it so much more positive to realize that every great (and small) achievement was made by that person? That they did it themselves, or with the help of others. They may have thought that God or their long lost loved ones helped them, but the most important lesson is that the power and will was within them all along. And if there is one thing that we want to take into the new year, shouldn't it be the realization that we are capable of so much more than we may realize?

-Brain Hulk

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Friday, January 2, 2015

Monthly curse

One thing I don't miss from my days of belief is the strange explanations that are sometimes given for the existence of things. One of those explanations was for the existence of the menstrual period that visits the human female every month.

The teaching that was handed down was that it was part of the curse God put on Eve for eating from the three of knowledge of good and evil. And this is the same explanation I've also heard other Christians give. But Genesis 3:16 says this:
To the woman he said, "I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."
The verse mentions painful childbirth, but where does menstruation come into the picture? Well' we have to remember that Christianity is based on Judaism. And the Midrashim (Avot De Rabbi Nathan) offers these ten curses of Eve that includes:
Ten decrees were passed with regard to Eve.
The first is menstruation, when she is driven from her house and banned from her husband.
The second is that she gives birth after nine months...
Pirkei De Rabbi Eliezer's list also includes menstruation:
He gave the woman nine curses and death:
[1] the afflictions arising from menstruation...
And the Babylonian Talmud features this excerpt:
“Unto the women He said, ‘and I will greatly multiply,’” which refers to the two drops of blood,
[1] one being that of menstruation
[2] and the other that of virginity,
The Jewish view of the female period being part of the curse of Eve actually makes some sense of Leviticus 15:19-24 in the Bible:
When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening. Anything she lies on during her period will be unclean, and anything she sits on will be unclean. Anyone who touches her bed will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening. Anyone who touches anything she sits on will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening. Whether it is the bed or anything she was sitting on, when anyone touches it, they will be unclean till evening. If a man has sexual relations with her and her monthly flow touches him, he will be unclean for seven days; any bed he lies on will be unclean.

Obviously, this verse shows that God has a serious problem with period blood. So bad that a menstruating woman is considered unclean, has to go away while she is on her period and is supposedly more contagious and unclean than a bad cold since literally everything she touches is considered unclean. But why is that?
On the eighth day she must take two doves or two young pigeons and bring them to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting. The priest is to sacrifice one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. In this way he will make atonement for her before the LORD for the uncleanness of her discharge.

-Leviticus 15:29-30
So menstruation is a sin? How can something that a woman has no control over and occurs naturally be a sin? It doesn't make sense unless it is part of the curse of Eve and is an expression of her defying God.

So considering menstruation was a curse handed to Eve, are we to assume that Eve (Biblically) didn't menstruate at first? Did she lay eggs, or did she go into 'heat' instead? If so, what happened to 'Be fruitful and multiply'? (Genesis 1:28) After all, if this was the case, this apparent previous reproductive cycle would result in a decrease in the potential of 'multiplying' potential if she went into heat instead.

Then there is the fact that human females are not the only mammals that menstruate. Many mammals do so differently, as they reabsorb rather than expel their monthly blood. But the vast majority of animals that menstruate like humans are primates. And considering how closely we are related to primates, it's really no surprise.

You see, the fact is that human female menstruation is not proof of the curse of Eve as some old-school believers think it is. Rather, it is yet another example of religions forming poor explanations, as well as another sure sign of our evolutionary relationships within the animal kingdom.

-Brain Hulk

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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Ryan Bell: One year later

Last year I wrote about Ryan Bell, an former Seventh Day Adventist pastor who resolved to 'try on atheism' for a year. Through the year I have been reading his various entries and in a recent interview with NPR almost at the very end of Bell's 'year of atheism, he had some interesting (and not unexpected) things to say.
I've looked at the majority of the arguments that I've been able to find for the existence of God and on the question of God's existence or not, I have to say I don't find there to be a convincing case in my view.
Wow! That answer sounds a lot like what I (and many other atheists would say). Bell goes on...
I don't think that God exists. I think that makes the most sense of the evidence that I have and my experience. 
And there it is! One more pastor turned atheist. Personally, I was happy that Bell was even giving this project a try. Had he asked these questions and returned to his faith, I would have been satisfied that he actually had the bravery that many other Christians seem to lack. He asked the hard questions instead of avoiding them. Granted, I had a feeling the end result would be as it is after reading his entries. But it was still pleasant to see those suspicions confirmed.
I think before I wanted a closer relationship to God and today I just want a closer relationship with reality
Sounds good to me!

And luckily Ryan is working again in a way that he loves, at PATH (People Assisting The Homeless). Good on you Mr. Bell, and welcome to the fold!

-Brain Hulk

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