Tuesday, December 09, 2008

In-breeding

Reading through deconversion accounts, we see many different precipitating factors for why a person would start to question a firmly held belief. Perhaps it was a traumatic, painful hurt within their life. Perhaps it was other believers not acting in a consistent manner. Perhaps it was being thrown in a situation where they were confronted with different belief. Perhaps it was a search for knowledge.

Regardless of what it was, the stories converge on a consistent theme—eventually the person searches for information outside their normal parameters. They start reading books they would never think of reading before. Perusing websites and programs previously uninvestigated. Talking to persons with contrary beliefs, unlike before.

Eventually it is this new information, this new study that causes the person to modify their belief.

And really—this is no surprise. New information presents us opportunities to change all the time. Listen to the radio on the way to work; hear of traffic tie-ups and this new insight causes you to change your route. We learned of microwave ovens; modifying how we cook popcorn forever. We learned of DVD; good-bye VHS. We learned the wrong way to change tires, new words, greater discoveries.

What does surprise me is how many Christians actively limit learning new information. As if, somehow, this new information could possibly require them to change their mind and as long as they stick their finger in their ears, close their eyes and hum real loud, they will never have to address the problem.

If you cut-off access to the information in the first place, you never have to worry about dealing with it. They become in-breed.

I recently held a debate with a theist, who wanted it posted on his forum--Faith and Fellowship Forum. A forum with interesting Rules:
You will not use any aspect of FF Forums to promote a religion, belief, faith or doctrine other than "Christianity" as stated in the Nicene Creed. A post that merely provides information about a non-Nicene Christian belief is allowed for informational purposes only (with references provided) and without promotion. Promotion is defined as encouragement of the progress, growth, or acceptance of something including advertising and publicity. For the purposes of this rule, atheism and witchcraft/psychics are to be considered faiths.



A. You will not post content regarding the following subjects anywhere on FFF except in Ethics & Morality.

drug use
gambling
polygamy
extramarital or premarital sexual activity
homosexuality
transsexuality

*You will not make posts promoting or endorsing any of these subjects.


So if one dares to…say…argue the existence of God, one could easily be accused of “promoting atheism” and the posts would be deleted. Perhaps the poster banned. The ONLY thing one is allowed to do is promote the same belief as the administrator.

Think about the natural outcome of such a place. Pantheist?—good-bye. Deist?—right out. Mormon?—Sorry, we require the Nicene Creed; there’s the door. Eventually, by process of elimination, the only persons left would be the ones that believe the same as you do!

Now—if the only people you talk to know the same things you do; what is the chance of learning new information? Exactly! Zero. What a great insulation from ever having to be confronted with a possible contrary opinion—never allow it in the front door in the first place.

For obvious reasons, in order to even HAVE a debate within such a format, one of the parameters was my being exempted from the rules. (Wouldn’t be possible, otherwise.)

Doesn’t matter. The Administrator has now deleted the debate off the forum. Gone, as if it never existed.

This is by no means unique. I hadn’t been on Christian Forums in years and years. I happened to wander back, looking for an old post and guess what I found? The same blocked door to information! As of this fall, it was no longer open for non-Christians to respond to posts. All Christian All The Time.

I have been on blogs who politely informed me they were Christian blogs, only looking for Christian responses (or seekers looking to become Christians) and my information was not welcome.

My own family and friends, upon learning of my deconversion, did not ask why. (With the exception of one friend.) They didn’t want the information. They didn’t want to deal with it.

Growing up Christian we only learned of evolution what our Christian leaders wanted us to learn. Minute bits and rare out-of-context quotes designed to show the ridiculousness of the theory. We were NOT encouraged to read scientists. We were NOT encouraged to read scientific journals. Oh, most certainly not! Those doors must be barred. If we learned that information…why…we would have to address it!

How many conversations have we had on the topic, only to learn the creationist has not read one single book from a scientific standpoint, while demanding we read dozens of theirs?

If your belief cannot stand to look at new information—I have no use for it. If your belief cannot allow scrutiny by those in disagreement—it is a sham.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Christmas Message from Atheists

At the Washington State Capital, Freedom From Religion Foundation (headed by Dan Barker) was permitted to place a plaque next to the two (2) other Holiday displays. A “Holiday Tree” and a Nativity Scene. The plaque reads:
At this season of the winter solstice, may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.

According to Mark Impomeni this is “an offensive message of intolerance.”

I see it more as an exercise of freedom of speech. If you want a Nativity, why can’t the Jewish community have its Menorah? Or the atheist community have some plaque like this?

Frankly, if you want the REAL meaning of Christmas displayed, I would think the shopkeepers should be entitled to put up a great big metal green Dollar Sign.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Petty Pet Peeve about Vampires

The movie Twilight opens today. The movie is based upon a book series; the author, Stephenie Meyer freely admits she did no research on Vampires prior to writing the books, “Because I was creating my own world, I didn't want to find out just how many rules I was breaking.”

This disrespect for the genre has always bothered me. (Told ya it was petty.) I watched movies where Vampires can go in daylight. Where Crucifixes and garlic doesn’t bother them. Where a wooden stake is meaningless. I can’t tell you which ones because after I watched them I did not bother watching them again.

Apparently in Twilight the Vampires can choose to be “vegetarian” meaning they will on suck blood from animals and not humans. Too bad for the animals, of course. Yet the Vegan Vamps (Come on—how stupid does that sound?) still have quite a longing for occasional human Vintage 2008, so they have to keep their sexual desires in check and refrain from thinking too longingly on a juicy, ripe, pulsating jugular.

Bleh.

Look, part of the complete, scare-the-bejesus-outta-ya fact of Vampires was their moralless view of humanity. It wasn’t evil to kill humans; it wasn’t moral to save humans—humans were food. Much like most of us would approach a hamburger at McDonald’s. We don’t wrestle with the implications of eating a brown-eyed Bessie. We order it with extra ketchup and let our chompers fly.

What made Vampires scary was the inability to reason with them. They considered you one or two steps down on the food chain, and thus unnecessary as part of any moral quandary. A vampire with angst? What is scary about that?

I love the idea they cannot be in sunlight. There is something so temptingly delicious about this weakness. As if somehow we could conquer a Vampire within the few hours of daylight, due to their inherent inabilities. Yet (as the great authors write) it always seems as if time is slipping away. Daylight, once thought so plentiful, becomes less and less. And every time one is finally prepared to meet the Vampire—daylight is almost gone. Stephen King’s writing in Salem’s Lot comes to mind.

Or the idea they can be held at bay by simple sticks of wood. Sure, if they come at you from behind—you’re royally screwed. But if you can find a couple a popsicles, and a corner, and can hold out all night—you could survive a Vampire. There is hope, even in the darkness. Of course, part of the problem was the Vampire’s cunning, hypnotic eyes, and ability to shape-shift; all resulting in this being a terrible strategy—doomed to failure.

The adrenaline-enhancing fright of a Vampire was how one could—so close—perhaps overcome it; yet never quite manage to do so.

I know, authors who re-write Vampires make millions more dollars than I do, and another Vampire move like Count Dracula wouldn’t even make it to pre-pre-production.

I just happen to like the scary, “Holy Crap!” vampires—not the “Ain’t he just dreamy?!” sort.

Monday, November 17, 2008

If you can’t say anything nice…

I recently had a medical incident causing my family members to send a rare contact. Most were thoughtful; but a few had to add they were praying for me. One went on and on about it.

I never know how to respond to this. Do I say, “Thank you”? I know this is how they handle difficulties and to them they are offering me a great and wonderful gift. “We took time out of our busy, busy commute when we would much rather be listening to local newscasters telling us once again the weather to turn off the radio and talk out-loud to a God who apparently needs constant reminding that humans actually like to be healthy and not in hospitals.”

I understand it is comforting to them. Not so much directions to a God, but a way of feeling like they are doing something rather than nothing and feeling useful.

Yet I can’t bring myself to say, “Thank you.” See—I am NOT thankful they are praying for me. I don’t care whether they are praying for me or not. Actually, rather than waste the time praying, I would rather they spend a 5:1 ratio in talking to me rather than praying about me. For every 5 minutes they spent talking to God, if they spent 1 minute e-mailing me it would be far more beneficial.

And I don’t think praying is doing anything. I view it much the same way as if they said, “Every time I mow the yard and go around a tree, I am going to scream out your name. Isn’t that wonderful?”

“Sure,” I would reply, slowly backing away.

And I could almost understand if they didn’t know me. Almost. Because of sheer numbers, it could be presumed the other person is a Christian and would appreciate the concept of being prayed for. Even though it is still presumptuous; it is a natural reaction.

They know I am an atheist. They know I find their prayers of little meaning. As if they are reiterating, “See? We are Christians and we want to subtly remind you once again of what that means.” To them it has meaning, truth and depth; and since it is true, my own personal feelings on the matter must take a far, far second to their “truth.”

But to me—atheism is true. Does this justify my making some smary comment in reply? “Hey, your prayers really helped. Well…in addition to the medicine. And the Doctors. And the Nurses. And the diagnostic machines. And the technology available to us today. I’m sorry—what was it you said you did again?”

If their “truth” trumps courtesy; can mine?

Or another example. My hospital roommate was a devoted Christian. I heard him praying out loud. As we talked, it was not a surprise when he started to share his faith. I became real silent. How do you tell an 82-year-old man who is having health difficulties his hope of an afterlife is pure fantasy? As make believe as Dungeons and Dragons? At one point he said, “Make sure you take the Great Physician with you. You know who that is, right?”

After a dramatic pause: “Jesus.”

The first thought crossing my mind was, “Well, I hope he has studied up some, ‘cause medicine has really changed in the past 2000 years.” The second thought was, “I wonder if my roommate knows how health was viewed in First Century Mediterranean, and it was a disassociation with one’s place in society, and not an illness as we understand it.” My third thought was “Er….thank you?” My fourth thought, the one I went with, was silence.

I find these statements awkward.

So what do you say? What do you think I should say?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Great Greeting Giver

For a period of time, I attended college in the Southern United States. Even though we share the same citizenship, it has some very different nuances in its culture. One of those was the open and friendly way in which people interacted with each other. Even strangers. Two illustrations of what I mean:

I am from the Midwest. We are in a hurry, avoid eye contact in crowds, and attempt to get from point A to Point B with as little inconvenience as possible. Including human interaction. I did not realize how ingrained my southern interaction had become until I came back to Michigan. I was walking through a local campus (summer courses) and as I saw people—anyone, really—I would wave; calling out a friendly greeting, “Hi, there!”

They started back at me; moving as quickly as possible away from the strange little person who dared say “Hi” and slow them on their way. I was shocked at how rude and impatient these “northerners” were. My inner-being had changed to the point it felt “wrong.” This was not how humans were to interact! Of course, I quickly re-assumed my Midwestern “values.”

The second instance was when I took my wife back to visit friends. I warned her things were just a little bit…different…than she was used to and moved at a distinct pace. “Oh, that is fine by me,” she said, “I think it will be nice to slow down and be friendlier.” She didn’t know what she was getting in to.

We bought some items at a store, and got in line at the cashier behind a person with only one or two items. Lucky, right? Er…no. The cashier and the buyer struck up a conversation. Now it was evident they didn’t know each other; but that wasn’t hindering the conversation a bit. They were more than willing to chat away. After about a minute I turned to my wife:

“Are you O.K?”
“This is fine. It’s kinda nice, actually.”

Another minute passed.

“How are you doing?”
“Do they always talk like this?”
“Yep.”

Another long minute passed.

“You O.K.? You look a little…red.”
“Don’t they know people are trying to purchase things here? Don’t they know we have things to do?”

And another minute…

“Uh…maybe you should wait in the car…?”
[words chopped off with a snap of the teeth] “WHY. CAN’T. THEY. SHUT. UP?”

Even though we are but a 1000 miles apart in distance; the cultural divide may be far greater.

As humans we recognize the cultural and societal impact of greeting each other, and how that varies from place to place. In some parts of world, touching each other in greeting would be considered very rude. A bow is appropriate. Yet in others, a greeting may be on the other end of the spectrum, consisting of a firm hug and a kiss on each cheek.

We have quick handshakes, firm handshakes, handshakes that the more respected person must offer first, power handshakes and no handshakes. We have bear hugs and side hugs and one-armed hugs. We have kiss on the cheeks, kiss in the air near the cheek, one kiss, two kiss and three kiss greeting. Here are different forms of greeting from a few selected places.

We even indicate the depth of relationship by the amount of body we use: to a friend we use a whole arm (hug), to a stranger this is reduced to one hand (handshake) and by the time we reach an enemy, the only thing left in our greeting is one finger. In business gatherings we have one form of greeting; in doctor’s offices another. (Who shakes hands with a proctologist?)

We understand both the differences and the force of upbringing affecting how we view greetings. In fact, as cultures interact, they can even affect each other. Because of Japan’s interaction with Americans, the handshake has become more common, for example.

None of us is surprised at the differences of greeting. None of us is surprised that how we were raised causes us to feel some greetings are “right” and some feel “wrong.” If I met some of you in person and grabbed you in a great big hug—some would find this shocking, others would take little note. Why? Because of our relationship and our culture. On the other hand, if I were to bow and not offer a hand in a handshake—this, too, would seem stilted and odd.

Fine and dandy but…so what? Here is my question: Why is this any different than morality? In the same way greetings are determined by culture, time, locale and society—why can’t morality be determined the same way? The same way greetings modify upon meeting new cultures; morals can change.

At some point humans met each other. They learned there must be a way to indicate how this meeting was to progress. Were they to fight? To talk? To avoid each other? By creating simple forms of greeting, these questions were answered. How many fights start with, “Hi”? (Curiously, after all these years, we still haven’t figured out a way to end conversations. How many times, at parties or meetings, does an awkward silence eventually end with a muttered, “So..O.K., then…uh…see you later?”)

In the same way, humans recognized they had to interact with each other and began to institute morals within these interactions. If I could steal stuff from my neighbor’s cave, then they could steal stuff from my cave. Meaning I could never leave my cave to get more stuff. If I was burned with a stick, I didn’t like it. Presumably if I burned someone else with a stick; they would like it.

Yet somehow, in our discussions on God, theists are vastly impressed with the fact there are morals--that this proves there is a God; but are not equally impressed with the fact there are greetings. Look, if morals (which appear driven by society) imply there is a Great Moral Giver then greetings (which appear driven by society) imply there is a Great Greeting Giver.

What is the difference? When we point out the vastly different morals over locales and time (slavery, polygamy, divorce, euthanasia, abortion, etc.) what we are told is the point is not what the morals are—it is the fact there are morals.

All right. Then it is not important what the greetings are—it is the fact there are greetings. Thus proving the importance of greeting to this Great Greeting Giver. We can even continue this argument along similar lines; using it to demonstrate if morals must be absolute by their mere existence, then greetings must equally be absolute by their mere existence.

What does this mean for the Christian? According to 1 Cor. 16:20:

All the brethren greet you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.


If we have “absolute greetings”—it would seem the Christian God requires it be a kiss. Not a handshake. Not a bow. A kiss. (And not just “any” kiss mind you—but a “holy kiss.”)

Does this seem ridiculous? Isn’t Paul talking about a cultural norm? Well…wait a minute. Then we could equally claim the prohibition against homosexuality in Romans 1 was merely a “cultural norm.” and dismiss it as well. If greetings are relative to time and place—why can’t morals equally be relative to time and place?

What method does the Christian use to determine greetings are NOT absolute under their God, but Morals are? If the only proof for absolute morals is the claim “Well gee--everybody has morals” then I can claim “Well gee--everybody has a form of greeting” as well.

If you can see how greetings are derived from culture, develop over time, modify upon interaction with other cultures—can you see how morals will too?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Obama – the next contestant on “Who is the Anti-Christ?”

Well, maybe not. Every presidency or so, there are claims the person is the Anti-Christ. I remember the claim “Ronald Wilson Reagan”—six letters in each of his names---666. Proving he was the antichrist.

Christians, especially of the Rapture Ready sort have a bizarre love/hate relationship with the Rapture, End-times, Tribulation and, of course, the Anti-Christ. They recognize Matthew 24:36 says no one (not even Jesus) knows when the Second Coming is…yet they guess anyway. They would refuse to vote for a person they thought was the anti-christ…yet acknowledge their God is sovereign and would control the vote putting the anti-christ in power.

They don’t want to act as if they would enjoy the terrible deaths of the tribulation…yet it is these deaths that usher in the age they look forward to. They talk of ancient times when it was necessary for God to use genocide…yet readily hold to the same God using genocide in the future.

It is so curious how Christians think they can affect their own God. If we all managed to never vote in the anti-christ, or never place him/her (*cough, cough* “Hillary”) in power—could we thwart their God? Does God watch CNN on election night to determine his game plan? Or if we planned very hard on electing the perfect anti-christ person—would God be forced to “move up” his timetable to conform to our vote?

They want it…they don’t…they do. Like constant air quotes: “Wouldn’t it be ‘terrible’ if Obama was the anti-christ? He He he.” Do they want this country to fall into bad times under Obama? Just to prove their point?

When will this particular flavor of Christianity cease to exist?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Tradition Protected

With the passing of Proposition 8 in California, I am hearing the statement, “Thank goodness the traditional definition of marriage has been affirmed.” I have seen the argument against homosexual marriage is that it is not ”traditional.” This is a stupid argument, and should rightly be abandoned.

Two questions immediately come to mind:

1) How long must something be practiced before it is “traditional”? and
2) What is it about “tradition” that makes something correct, moral or right?

As I grew up, steeped in Baptist Culture, I attended weddings. After a while, to a young boy, they all looked the same. There was a reason for this—they were. The wedding would take place in the church. Same wedding song was played. (“Here comes the bride. Big, Fat and Wide. Where is the Groom? In the Dressing Room. Why is he there? He lost his underwear.” Sung by every 8-year-old at some point, I warrant.) Same formation on stage. Same verses read. (Ephesians 5. 1 Cor. 13) Same sermonette. (“The ring is round, indicating eternal. It is made of gold, because it is precious.”)

Candles. Kneeling bench. Coupla solos.

Reception to follow in the church hall. Same food. (Even the same mints.) Same ceremony. Toss the bouquet, toss the rice, toddle off.

It was…tradition.

In my wedding, we mixed things up a bit and had the wedding party face the crowd, with the pastor’s back to the audience. (Hey—it was 1990. More radical back then.) The funniest item within our wedding was that one of the bridesmaids was 9 months and 3 days pregnant. A few times she would startle a bit and grab her stomach (as pregnant women do) and every time she did there was an audible “GASP!” in the audience. They figured she would drop the baby right there on stage!

[Ironically enough, the only song I wanted sung was “Sunrise, sunset” because I didn’t want a dry eye in the place. A good wedding is a crying wedding. The song comes from Fiddler on the Roof--a movie about following tradition.]

But our reception violated all kinds of tradition from my family’s point of view. We had…dancing. Before this, a (very) few had been to weddings—such as distant cousins—where dancing occurred. Those cousins were heathens; it was expected of heathen cousins to perform heathen rituals.

This was a…Christian wedding. With dancing? Broke every rule in the book! A Band playing Rock ‘n Roll??!! Wedding party members who had never dared to walk quickly to music for fear of angering God expected to go out on…(I can’t bring myself to say it)…a dance floor?! Many of my father’s Baptist friends were aghast, appalled, and so outraged they only stayed for seconds. And desert. And the cake. But then they showed their moral uprightness and social disdain by leaving immediately afterward.

Humorously, many of my wife’s relatives equally felt a severe breach of tradition as we did not serve alcohol. (Luckily there was a bar adjacent.)

Seems quaint and silly, doesn’t it? 18 years ago what was considered a supreme breach of tradition would now pass without notice. Almost embarrassing to recall how upset people were over such a minor item.

Isn’t that what tradition is? Something we do over and over and over…until we don’t?

What if I told you I would pick out my daughter’s husband? And it would be a choice based upon his family, their position in my society, their wealth, and how it could benefit me? The age, disposition, character of this husband is meaningless. The idea they should “love” each other—preposterous. Marriage is about uniting families to form societal bonds. Not love, or romance, or making a home.

You would (rightly) consider me out-of-my-mind. Yet for 100’s and 100’s and 100’s of years—that was exactly what marriage was. (Tragically, because that was how marriage was performed at the time of Jesus, some Christians believe this system has “divine blessing” and impose it upon their children in our time. Crazy.) It was tradition. It was how marriages were formed.

At some point, one person within this traditional culture went against tradition; decided to do it differently. What we now consider normal and expected would have been NON-normal and UNntraditional.

Polygamy was traditional. Taking captive females as wives was traditional. If an American soldier took two (2) Iraqi females, forcing them to be his wife—we would be shocked. Headlines would scream. Yet 3000 years ago, this would not even cause an eyebrow to rise.

So here’s the thing. I don’t give a flying fuck if “traditional” marriage is one man and one woman. Even if it is—it is time for that tradition to end. There is nothing about “tradition” making an idea sacrosanct. If it was, we would still have slavery, women wouldn’t vote, and schools would be segregated.

There is nothing about “tradition” giving the concept a pass on its correctness. We never are entitled to say, “This is the way we have always done—so that makes it right.” We must always adjust our thinking, re-evaluate our position, and question our long-held belief.

For those using “tradition” as a weapon against homosexual marriage—don’t. Stop cowering behind important-sounding, multi-syllabic words. Stop acting as if you have the higher moral ground because you think the same way as other people. If you want to be against homosexual marriage—lay claim to your true feelings. You don’t like homosexual sex. You don’t. You find it “icky.” Start being the bigoted bastard that you are; not the intellectual, morally-minded protector of all things traditional you want to portray. We aren’t buying it.

In case you can’t tell, I am sick by the passing of Proposition 8. I hope the youth—my children—can change the thinking from the twisted, cobweb-ridden mind of yester-years “tradition.” I hope my grandchildren look back at our generation as an anathema, just like we look back at our slave-owning ancestors.

I don’t give America the “pat on the back” for voting in the token African-American when, at the same time, it denies privileges to another segment of the population.

“Traditional marriage” proponents can bite my shiny metal ass.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Debating a Theist

I am in the process of debating a theist here. The topic, “Does God Exist?” is not very exciting, but he seemed quite enthusiastic about debating me, so I obliged.

Question: Does any one think there has been any new developments in this fight in the past…say…100 years? Or is it the same arguments re-worked?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Invisible Bible

Last Thursday I was listening to the Albert Mohler Program and he mentioned a book: The Invisible Constitution with the complaint, “Why—If there is an ‘invisible’ Constitution behind the real one; you can put whatever you like in it!”

Now, I haven’t read the book; this is not a take-off on any premise therein.

Coincidentally, this was the same day One Small Step wrote this comment:

And then, to carry on with your line of what other secret messages future generations will find ... if God did inspire in such a way, what other parts of the Bible were inspired in such a fashion? What else did the authors write thinking it was literal truth, but would later to be found metaphorical or symbolic or figurative?


that was resonating through my head at the moment. I almost shouted “Eureka!” as I heard the disapproval from Dr. Mohler. I wanted to reach right through the radio, grab Al by the face, look him in the eye and say, “This is exactly what Christians do. They create an ‘Invisible Bible’ behind the real one and insert whatever they want into it.”

We see the poetic book of Job. A Christian creates an “invisible Bible” and determines it was either poetic, or perhaps poetically describing a literal event, or doctrine, or a description of God, or…whatever! We see a literal event. Right? Nope—the “invisible Bible” is giving us a metaphorical event—didn’t happen. Or perhaps it was a literal event, only mythically enhanced. Or a literal event that was to be a type for a later event. Or a metaphorical event demonstrating prophecy.

We see Jesus mixing it up with the Pharisees. Some look in their “Invisible Bible” and claim this actually happened and is a demonstration of how to show “love” to non-believers. Other people’s invisible Bible indicates it didn’t happen at all—it is myth. Still other people’s invisible Bibles say it did happen, and Jesus was loving them, but this is not an example of we should do.

Yeah, Dr. Mohler—you got it! By creating these “invisible documents” we CAN insert whatever we want. Christians are prolific at it. Paul’s doctrines about women? Well, the bit about not preaching in church—THAT one the Southern Baptist Invisible Bible says the same as the literal Bible. The One about women wearing pearls and gold? Lo and behold the Southern Baptist Invisible Bible says this one is “Right out!” Has to do with a principle, doncha know!

Psalm 22. A poem about a cry for help from an afflicted person. Ahhhh…but turn with me to Psalm 22 in your “Invisible Bible” and it turns out to be a miraculous prophecy of Jesus’ crucifixion. Mind you, the Invisible Bible also says the author of Mark couldn’t have figured that out and used Psalm 22 as midrash to create the Passion Story---oh, no! The Invisible Bible says Mark was writing history. Or at least this one does…

Because the Bible is considered “God-breathed” by most Christians, this creates a fa├žade. A veneer. Where the actual, physical Bible is boringly traipsed over, but underneath one can pull out the “Invisible Bible.” The “Real” Bible. The “God-Breathed” part. This is the part that is taught and fought and commentated and preached and teached and wrestled and able to create divergence in so many different denominations we have given up trying to keep track of them.

Think of this. If all we had was the literal Bible, the available sermons on the topic would have dried up long ago. Assuming there were only 1,000 churches preaching 3 sermons a week, this gives us 312 million sermons having been taught on the Bible. Using the KJV, it averages out to over 10,000 sermons per word! Why hasn’t it stopped?

‘Cause the Invisible Bible provides an infinity of possibilities that can never be exhausted.

What is the Christians’ favorite version of the Bible? The invisible one.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Bible proves Cosmology

Do you know what an ”ad hoc” or “after-the-fact” argument is? It is taking a known conclusion and reviewing the facts in attempt to fit that conclusion.

For example, we obviously now know the Japanese planned a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Should we have known it was coming? Many people review the build-up of hostilities between the Japanese and the United States (war was almost inevitable) looking for any reference to Pearl Harbor, or plans of such a raid.

Any such indication found, or any notes regarding it becomes an “A-Ha!” moment in which the person claims, “See? See? They should have seen it coming.” What is often overlooked, though, was the anticipation the Japanese would initially attack in the Southern Pacific (they did almost immediately after Pearl Harbor) as well as the fact that war appeared imminent for a long period of time. Even the Japanese were extremely concerned about the viability of such a long-range sortie going undetected.

It is easy to look back, “after-the-fact” and see how America could have seen it coming—the better method is to view it in light of what was happening at the time. As is commonly noted in the intelligence gathering community—it is rarely the lack of information but rather the wealth of information that one has to discern what is relevant and what is not that causes the problems.

Scientists have recently (since 1929) discovered and confirmed through observation and experimentation the universe is expanding. Space itself is expanding. Some Christians have taken this relatively new finding and note how the Bible indicates the universe is expanding. This claim is utilized to show how supernaturally accurate it is to make such a prediction 1000’s of years prior to science discovering it.

But does the Bible really make the claim the universe is expanding? Or is this an ad hoc determination made by picking and choosing certain verses? Let’s look at the verses:

Job 9:8 “He alone spreads out the heavens, And treads on the waves of the sea;”

Psalm 104:2 “Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment, Who stretch out the heavens like a curtain.”

Isaiah 40:22 “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.”

Isaiah 42:5 “Thus says God the Lord, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk on it:”

Isaiah 45:12 “I have made the earth, And created man on it. My hands- stretched out the heavens, And all their host I have commanded.”

Isaiah 48:13 “Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, And My right hand has stretched out the heavens; When I call to them, They stand up together.”

Isaiah 51:13 “And you forget the Lord your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens And laid the foundations of the earth;…”

Jeremiah 10:12 “He has made the earth by His power, He has established the world by His wisdom, And has stretched out the heavens at His discretion.”

Jeremiah 51:15 “He has made the earth by His power; He has established the world by His wisdom, And stretched out the heaven by His understanding”

Zechariah 12:1” The burden of the word of the Lord against Israel. Thus says the Lord, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him:”

From Here

The word “stretched” is the Hebrew word natah meaning to spread or stretch out. To understand its meaning, let’s see its use in other verses:

“…and pitched [or stretched out] his tent…” Gen. 12:8
“…and spread his tent…” Gen. 35:21
“…Take your rod and stretch out your hands over the waters…” Ex. 8:5
“…The carpenter stretches out his rule…”Isa. 44:15

What we see from that is NOT an infinite and continual expansion, but rather a lengthening with a finite beginning and finite end.

Secondly, we must discuss what is meant by “heaven.” The Tanakh uses the term interchangeably for three regions:

1) The Sky/air where birds fly, winds blow.
2) The area where stars/sun/moon exists
3) The place where God lives.

We see all three examples:

Air/Sky Jeremiah 16:4 “They shall be consumed by the sword and by famine, and their corpses shall be meat for the birds of heaven and for the beasts of the earth.”

Stars/Space Psalm 8:3 “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,”

God’s residence Psalm 53:2 “God looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.”

The heavens were stacked one on top of the other: first the sky, then the stars/sun and then God’s abode. We see remnants of this thought in Paul’s statement of a man being caught up in the “third heaven” (2 Cor. 12:2) and Jesus floating “up;” (Acts 1:9) to get to God’s heaven one had to go past sky, past stars and then hit God’s place.

So what “heaven” were these verses talking about? Go outside. Night, day—doesn’t matter. If you look at the clouds and sun as they stretch from horizon to horizon and almost appear to arch overhead—does it look like a “tent” of sky stretched out? Or at night, if you are away from the city, and can see what look like millions of stars, does it look like a dark tent and tiny pinpricks (with the moon as a great big hole)?

At the time the Jewish authors were writing this—they were poetically describing their impression of what the sky and space looked like from God’s perspective—like a great big tent. There was no intention of making a cosmological claim of the Big Bang Theory.

What the Christian must be claiming is God was sending secret signals across the millenniums—a double-entendre, if you will, informing us in the 21st Century how the Jews were thinking of a tent, but God was sneakily telling us of expanding space. (Makes you wonder what other “secret messages” are out there for future generations!)

Or is this “after-the-fact”? Are people looking for any clue as to any indication of God knowing about an expanding universe, and using this as an excuse?

So I thought for a fun thought experiment, we could pretend the universe isn’t expanding. That scientists discovered it has a finite, definite size. Can we find verses supporting the theory God was sending secret messages of a limited, measurable universe?

Well, what do you know...

Psalm 19:6 “Its rising is from one end of heaven, And its circuit to the other end; And there is nothing hidden from its heat.”

Isaiah 13:5 “They come from a far country, From the end of heaven-The Lord and His weapons of indignation, To destroy the whole land.”

Isaiah 40:12 “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, Measured heaven with a span. And calculated the dust of the earth in a measure?”

Jeremiah 31:37 “Thus says the Lord: "If heaven above can be measured, And the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel For all that they have done, says the Lord.”

Jeremiah 49:36 “Against Elam I will bring the four winds From the four quarters of heaven, And scatter them toward all those winds; There shall be no nations where the outcasts of Elam will not go.”

Look at what we found! Verses discussing how there are “ends” and “corners” to heaven. An infinitely expanding universe doesn’t have ends or corners—only a finite, fixed one could. The heaven described is measurable—something an expanding universe never is.

We find other verses describing what appears to be a fixed size universe:

Job 22:14 “Thick clouds cover Him, so that He cannot see, And He walks above the circle of heaven.”

Job 26: 11 “The pillars of heaven tremble, And are astonished at His rebuke.”

Job 41:11 “Who has preceded Me, that I should pay him? Everything under heaven is Mine.”

Unless God’s walks are getting longer, it is describing a set-sized universe. Or a God who needs to get on a diet plan:

Jeremiah 23:24 “Can anyone hide himself in secret places, So I shall not see him?" says the Lord; "Do I not fill heaven and earth?" says the Lord.”

If God fills heaven and earth, and heaven has expanded (quite a bit) since Jeremiah was written—is our God “bigger” than their God?

O.K., that was easy to find. Now let’s try something harder. For our thought experiment let’s assume science discovered our universe is getting smaller--instead of a Big Bang we had a Vast Vacuum. Can we find verses describing such a universe? I could find one:

Isaiah 34:4 “All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, And the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll; All their host shall fall down As the leaf falls from the vine, And as fruit falling from a fig tree.”

Scrolls get smaller as they roll up. Yeah, this one is a bit of a stretch. (he he he) No more of a stretch than claiming:

“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” Rom. 8:20-21

Is “proof” the Bible talks about the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Not kidding.

What’s the point of all this? To demonstrate claiming some book has holy insight is a dangerous thing. It causes people to look for things that simply are not there. There is no great scientific insight into the Big Bang here. No “secret revelation” waiting for Hubble to unlock the hidden code.

Just people trying to bolster the Bible into something it is not.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tagged

A tagging by The Barefoot Bum

Can You Remember The Day That You Officially Became An Atheist?

I remember the day I first contemplated the horrific thought there might not be a god. I looked in the mirror, drew in a breath and said out loud, “There is no god.” My next immediate reaction was the slight fear of lightening coming out of the socket! No joke.

I went to work, and over the next few weeks I realized I no longer thought of god as an entity, but more as a project. I don’t remember the exact day. Some time in July-September of 2004

Do you remember the day you officially became an agnostic?

Never really thought about it. I remember listing my belief as “agnostic” when I posted on Christianforums, but that was more out of a sense of being slightly stunned there couldn’t be a god. Was it really that possible?

How about the last time you spoke or prayed to God with actual thought that someone was listening?

Hmmm…long ago. Few years? I have spoken to god when believers tell me, “Just say the following prayer…” more to humor the notion. But think someone is listening? Nah…

Curiously, perhaps, the few times I have had spiritual moments or God-moments since becoming an atheist, the last thing I wanted to do was talk or pray or do anything other than revel in the moment.

Did anger towards God or religion help cause you to be an atheist or agnostic?

No. Why would it? I could not get my mind to process the thought, “There is a god” without evidence crowding the thought out.

If I felt anything about God or religion on my journey to atheism it would be disappointment. I asked god a lot to answer my search for him and heard nothing. Who wouldn’t be disappointed in such an event?

Here is a good one: Were you agnostic towards ghosts, even after you became an atheist?

I was a-ghostic (as in “there are no ghosts”) prior to being an atheist and still am today. I see a similar lack of proof for ghosts—why would I be agnostic toward them, but atheistic toward a god?

Do you want to be wrong?

No. Who “wants” to be wrong? Don’t we “want” to have correct information and act upon it in a correct manner? My chief desire is to know what actually is, and act rationally upon it. However, I recognize, having been wrong in the past, I am certainly wrong about something now.

Tagging Roman, Jon, and He Is Sailing (if he is even around anymore)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Figurative Morality

The Barefoot Bum wrote an excellent blog entry entitled ”The Moral Failure of Figurative Theology.” I am not quite ready for it to be consigned to the back-room of blogdom.

There has always been a tension regarding the literalism of the stories of the Tanakh. At one time, most Christians believed the Great Flood literally occurred as recorded in the Bible. (Whether Judaism always believed it to be an actual historical event is a matter of another discussion.) Christians believed there was an actual 40 days (and nights) with actual rain, and the entire planet, every continent, every mountain, every single piece of earth was covered with water. And Christians believed the entire animal kingdom was saved by virtue of one (1) very big boat.

Science began to discredit the story in two primary ways: 1) Geology demonstrated there was no universal flood and 2) Biology demonstrated the difficulty in all the species (including insect, plant, fish, and avian) either surviving such a flood, or fitting in such a boat.

This tension caused Christianity to fracture into three predominant groups. The first group continues with literalism. Any evidence pointing to the contrary is discounted, discredited or disavowed. Literalism is maintained at the cost of science, observation and (in my opinion) reasonableness.

The second group assumed a combination of literalism/allegory. That there is “some truth” (and how much is a matter of debate) to the story, but it didn’t actually happen as literally written out in Genesis. Most hold to a “local flood” concept.

The third group considered it a complete allegory. Entire myth. That this was just a story, made to give a moral point. Much like Aesop’s fables—there was no talking mouse and talking lion and never expected to be. The idea was what was to be conveyed.

We see these machinations in Creation (OEC vs. YEC vs. theistic evolution). In Exodus (including the Ten Plagues and Joshua’s genocide.) In the stories of Judges. Regarding David and Solomon—even later prophets like Daniel or Isaiah. And yes, in the New Testament as well. Did the authors of the gospels record what Jesus actually said, or did they record what they expected him to say? Did the author of Acts recording the literal speeches of Peter, Stephen and Paul, or summations or even broad doctrinal statements?

But The Barefoot Bum takes it a step further. A warranted step further. If the stories presented are of figurative historical nature; are the moral dictates within the stories equally figurative?

Going back to the flood story. If it was only a local flood, or was entirely a myth—what is the moral being proclaimed here?

God sees wicked people.
God kills all the wicked people.
God saves a few humans and a few animals.

In our current society, we attempt to rehabilitate people. If they are doing something wrong, we hope to give them an opportunity to correct their ways. We punish people based upon the extent of their wrong-doing. We do not levy the death sentence to rapists and jay-walkers alike.

We punish the actual wrong-doers. We do not electrocute the murderer, then kill his wife, then kill his new-born son and 5-year-old daughter. And kill his dog, his cat, and 10 gold fish.

Yet these are the very actions of the God of the Great Flood. He didn’t attempt to rehabilitate. He administered the same punishment for all. He killed 2-day-old infants for the sins of their fathers and mothers. He killed all of the household cats (except 2) because…well…cats are evil, I guess. (Dogs, I could see. But cats?)

In fact, we start to see figurative morality begin to take hold in the claims of Christianity. Ask about Onanism. Or the Mosaic Law. (“Much of that was done away with by the New Covenant.”) Or slavery. (“Their slavery was different than our slavery.”) Or Polygamy. (“Uh…er…”) Or women wearing gold 1 Tim. 2:9. (“That has to do with modesty, not actually wearing gold.”) Or Divorce. (“The wronged party can re-marry.”) Or alcohol. (“Their wine was different than our wine.”)

We see how the morals being imposed within the Bible no longer apply today (eating pork) or mean something else today (women dress modestly) or only meant for that time period (polygamy, slavery). They become a “figurative” morality.

Which brings us to the great question as posed by The Barefoot Bum. I would state it as follows (making it my own):

If the stories of the Bible are figurative, and the morals are figurative—what possible mandate would the Bible have upon us today? In other words—if we do not rely upon the Bible for history and we do not rely upon the Bible for morals—what DO we rely upon it for?

Other than stories of how former civilizations viewed their gods.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Explain Yourself

How many times have we heard the phrase, “Atheists have to explain _____”? (Yes, I know. Atheists actually have to only explain is no god, but work with me here…)

“Atheists have to explain how the observable universe came into existence.”

Apparently I will need extensive knowledge in cosmology, astronomy, physics, and quantum mechanics.

“Atheists have to explain how life came from non-life.”

Now I need training in chemistry, geology, astronomy, and biology.

“Atheists have to explain ‘gaps’ in the fossil record.”

Brush up on biology; add paleontology, more on geology.

“Atheists have to explain how consciousness and morals came into existence.”

Add psychology, sociology, anthropology, quite a bit of history. And, to help flesh out our education, it would be great to study archeology and writing, as well as learning economics, environmental and even marine biology.

Like a shotgun, questions surrounding the universe are fired one right after another, prefaced with, “Atheists have to explain…” and when we are unable, it becomes an “A-Ha!” moment whereby atheism is considered an intellectual bankrupt concept.

Fine. You want an explanation? “Magic Fairy Pixie Dust.” How did the universe come into being? “Magic Fairy Pixie Dust.” Life from non-life? “Magic Fairy Pixie Dust.” Life developing consciousness and sense of morality? “Magic Fairy Pixie Dust.” Evolutionary “gaps”? Well….you get the idea.

Not a very compelling explanation is it? Not something you walk away thinking, “Wow! That guy REALLY knows his stuff! Every question presented, he came up with a well-researched, thought-out viable demonstration of how such a thing existed.”

I don’t have to connect the dots, do I?

”God” is not an explanation.

No one accepts “Magic Fairy Pixie Dust” as telling us anything about abiogenesis, or the initiation of the Big Bang. Even with the words coughed out, we are left scratching our heard. “HOW does Magic Fairy Pixie Dust make morality?”

Yet as crazy a scenario as this might be, it is exactly the thinking behind the idea of asking these questions. Since the atheist says, “we don’t know” and the theist can say “God”—that “God” is somehow an explanation. Guess what? It is not!

We are left with the same problems. HOW did God initiate the Big Bang? HOW did God evolve the animals?

I have come to a realization in my life. I don’t know everything. At some point I will have to rely upon some experts. Even experts who may not agree with me. I don’t know cosmology. Quantum mechanics? I strongly suggest you talk to someone else. I am more than willing to listen to alternate views, but they have to be persuasive against the experts.

I am always stunned at how many Christians think they have to be “experts” on everything. We can have a reasonable discussion about the existence of God, and they are an “expert” on philosophy. If the topic switches to the Bible, they become “experts” on history in the First Century CE as well as Canaanite History. Oh, and archeology as well.

Don’t believe me? How many times have we heard Christians say, “In those times, people would…” and upon researching we would realize they don’t have a clue? If the topic switches to evolution—guess what? By golly, they are “experts” on biology. On to abiogenesis—“experts” on chemistry. How the universe started? I don’t have to say it.

There seems to be no topic in which the Christian says, “You know what? I don’t know that field, and probably shouldn’t discuss it. I will leave it to experts who disagree with me.” Never.

And why not? Because they have a ready made expertise answer for everything. “Magic, fair”--…er…”God.”

Friday, October 03, 2008

An Evening Wasted with Frank Turek

This week I had an opportunity to hear Dr. Frank Turek, co-author of ”I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist” speak at a local university. I am firmly convinced some discussions deduct IQ points. Just by listening and following the conversation, you become stupider the longer you give it any deference. While I can’t say the total evening consisted of such conversations, there were moments…

Dr. Turek initially started off indicating four points were in contention: (actually there were five, but I forget the additional point—it was encompassed within these anyway):

1. Does Truth Exist?
2. Does God Exist?
3. Can Miracles Occur?
4. Is the New Testament reliable?

We were immediately informed he would not be able to get to the fourth point, and after talking around a bit, he also indicated he would not be covering the third point either. So we were going to be talking about the first two only. From the collective “Amen’s” and “That’s right” at the appropriate Jesus-moments throughout the speech, I would guesstimate the audience at 85-90% Christian. The “True Christian” pk-readings maxed out at 74.5% at one point.

Dr. Turek introduced the law of non-contradiction. (Yawn.) Explained it, and then jumped in with “Does Truth Exist?” “Truth” was defined as “what actually is.”

O.K. so far—no worries. He conspiratorially let in the audience on a big secret as to how to refute skeptics. Are you ready? “Turn the claim on itself.”

On the PowerPoint Screen (used liberally) up popped the statement, “There is no Truth.” Dr. Turek indicated how he hears this “all the time” and how we hear this “all the time” and how we may have even said it at one point. He then unwrapped the mystery of how to “turn this claim” on itself and refute it.

If you are reading my blog and you do not know how to respond to “There is no truth”—I suggest you stop reading right now. In fact, I recommend you pop over to Line Rider--a lovely little drawing game that will remind you of the pleasure of drawing from young childhood. And you don’t even have to stay in the lines!

A graphic was added, accompanying his statement, “In fact—you will look like a genius when you rebut this statement.” Somebody’s genius-gauge has been set way, way too low. And broken. And then stolen.

I was begrudgingly granting this may be necessary ground to cover. For many Christians—this may be new territory, and needed establishing. I eagerly waited for the next point. I did not know I had time to get a bite to eat, make some phone calls and catch a quick nap before it would come.

Dr. Turek felt this Grand Idea needed reaffirming. Over and Over and Over. We entered into a dreary routine. Up would pop a statement like “That may be true for you, and this is true for me” and he would ask how to refute it. After the requisite pause, some audience member would figure out how to turn it into a question, and yell it out. And then another phrase would appear, “You can’t know the truth.”

We built and burned this strawman. Then we built and burned the strawman’s wife. Then we built and burned the strawman’s kids. We were deep into Second Cousins, I think, before Dr. Turek was satisfied we had sufficiently absorbed the technique.

[Although this did give me an opportunity to test the theory as to whether this made one “look like a genius.” After one man shouted out the correct response, I peered at him intently, looking for signs of genius. He did not appear geniusified…but I discovered I felt pretty stupid for looking for signs of genius when there shouldn’t be any. Perhaps the system works; a “reverse-osmosis” sort of thing.]

Now that we had established “truth” exists (because we are SUPER-geniuses) we could move on to the next question—“Does God Exist?”

Dr. Turek decided to give us a heart attack by saying, “I believe in the Big Bang!...[dramatic pause]” You could feel the audience swell with tension: Big Bang = Big Bad Science = Darwinism = Burn the Heretic and we didn’t Bring. Enough. Matches! “…and I know who the Banger is!” A collective sigh; he was back on the right side. The creepy kid in the corner stopped menacingly flicking his Bic.

He then spent some time proving the Big Bang. (Red shift, radiation noise, Einstein, blah, blah, blah.) Actually gave some pretty good facts and figures. I don’t want to shock you too, but I believe in the Big Bang as well. I was only paying half-attention as I listened, waiting for him to get to the next point. Again.

And after proving the Big Bang (whoopee!) out pops this morsel of yesterday’s head cheese:

“So atheists say that something (universe); came from nothing (prior to the Big Bang). What sounds more reasonable? That ‘something can come from nothing’ or that ‘something came from an eternal something.’?”

Stop the busses and back up! There is something seriously incorrect here. While this term may be colloquially used--Dr. (we want to know “the truth,” right?) Turek, could have provided more clarification to our situation.

We begin observation of our universe at 1 Planck Time (that is 1/10 to the 43rd power of a second. A very, VERY short time) after the Big Bang. We cannot observe prior to that instant We simply don’t know if there was “nothing” at Big Bang, or a singularity, or what. We don’t know!

Secondly, we should note that while quantum physics works, and the theory of relativity works—both of these are incompatible. We don’t know how both can work. Further, both completely break down, and do not exist prior to that 1st Planck. Dr. Turek’s “law of causality” does not exist. The very law he is attempting to utilize to prove what was in place at this point in time--does not exist at this point of time!

Thirdly, we must note that time (and space and matter) began at the Big Bang. This is difficult to wrap our hands around. “Time” is a measurement in change. We go from one status to another status by time ticking forward. To our minds, one “second” there was ____, and the next “second” the Big Bang occurred. Yet no such “seconds” could happen, because there was no “time.”

It is incorrect, really, to use the term “prior to the Big Bang,” since “prior” implies a comparison in time, and there IS no prior to our observable time. (Note, this is as difficult a problem for a theist as the non-theist. Most theists, to avoid this problem, conveniently declare by definition [but they really don’t know] God is “outside” time. Never really explaining what “outside” means other than “a fancy philosophical term that sounds good to get me out of the current time conundrum.” But if God is outside time, He/She/It has the same problem of never changing. Never going from “God” to “God and Creation” since no time can occur to allow God to change from being alone to being with us.)

Back to our Dr. Turek. The audience is nodding their approval to such a fantastically astute statement as to how reasonable the notion of “something from nothing” is not, and “something from something we made up” is. To tighten up what the comparison (if accurately stated) we should have:

1. Cosmologists say the observable universe can only be seen back to 1 Planck time after the Big Bang. What happened before that, and what existed we do not (and possibly cannot) know.

2. Dr. Turek says the observable universe can only be seen back to 1 Planck time after the Big Bang. What happened before that, and what existed we do not (and possibly cannot) know. Therefore there must be a God we cannot observe who did…something… What that “something” is [the creation process] we do not (and possibly cannot) know.

Now, in comparing those statements—which is more reasonable? “I don’t know.” Or “I don’t know, so a God we don’t know must have done it in a way we don’t know.” Seems to me one “I don’t know” is sufficient.

And now we launched into Dr. Turek’s three (3) proofs for God:

1. Kalaam’s Cosmological Argument.
2. Teleological Argument
3. Moral Argument.

It was the standard presentation of Kalaam’s. Whatever begins must have a cause. [At the end of the talk, prior to the question and answer period, Dr. Turek raised this again, and stated, “perhaps you wonder how this applies to God?” Sure enough, one of our audience members was kind enough to indulge by asking “What Caused God?” which allowed Dr. Turek to pounce with glee on the ”whatever BEGINS” must have a cause, and since God doesn’t have a cause, he is exempt from the law.]

Again, having heard these arguments, I tuned out. (Do you see a pattern here? Hmmm…)

The Teleological Argument is one of design. (If you need the argument it goes like this:

1) See all these amazing facts about the universe/the cell/humans/small sea animals?
2) Aren’t those facts amazing?
3) There must be a god, ‘cause those facts are so amazing!)

We hit the same tired analogies. Yep—the watch. Mountain vs. Mt. Rushmore. He did introduce a spilled box of Alpha-bits spelling out a message. ½ point for the new analogy. He didn’t mention “Shakespeare” to my surprise. Extra 2 points. He failed to tell us how to compare a designed object by a designer within our universe and an object not designed by this designer within our universe. Minus 10 gadjillion points.

It was during this argument I noticed a very bizarre thing. See, I’m the type of person who does his research. Prior to the speech I had downloaded a number of youtube videos of Dr. Turek, popped ‘em on my iPod, and listened on the way. One of them was on the fingerprints of God.

Dr. Turek launched into the same speech. When I say “same speech” I do not mean similar illustrations, or arguments. It was the exact speech. Word-for-word. The same pauses. The same inflection. The same jokes. The same moments in time when he read the Bible. This was far more than mere memorization—even that will have some hiccups.

It was as if he was an actor, and had performed this play so many times, with the same lines and the same tones and the same breaths, and this was one more performance. I’m telling you—I could have played the video over the loudspeakers and shut off his mike, and no one there would EVER accuse him of lip-syncing. I started saying his exact words immediately before he did. It was eerie.

Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with this—I understand speakers have prepared speeches they use repeatedly. I just have never heard one so…exactly imitated.

We finished the beating the design argument, and zipped right into the moral argument:

1. Every law has a lawgiver.
2. There is moral objective law.
Conclusion: Therefore there is a moral objective law giver.

The first point was considered a given. The second point was “proven” by the concept we all have a sense of morality, so it couldn’t just be opinion, right? Godwin’s Law came into force, as Mother Theresa was compared to Hitler. (Personally, I wouldn’t have used Mother Theresa.)

And if it is just your opinion Hitler was wrong…why…that’s ludicrous; people are outraged by the notion morals could only be opinions. And golly gee, we all share some opinions, so they must be objective. Right? That proved objective morality, right?

Alas, the conclusion does not necessarily follow, in that we failed to answer the question “objective to WHOM?” There is more I could discuss in response, but this argument was kinda rushed through due to timing.

One thing I found fascinating was that Dr. Turek had three (3) books on stage: “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist,” “The Bible” and ”The God Delusion.” I remember him pointing out his own book twice, each time to promote it. (I have no problem with that, by the way. He is a paid speaker earning a living.) He used the Bible as an illustration once (“If there is no truth; THIS can’t be true.”) and read from it once. But he pointed out and picked up, and used for illustrations “The God Delusion” half a dozen times.

I heard Dawkins name again and again. If we counted up the words in this speech, “God” would be number one, with “Dawkins” firmly in second. “Jesus” would have been a far, far third. At one point, I looked around for Dr. Dawkins, because it seemed Dr. Turpek was addressing him so much, I thought it was a debate! I wanted to stand up and say, “Since Dr. Dawkins could not make it this evening—could you address us, please?”

And then came the Question and Answer period. I wondered how some of these people could process thoughts well enough to put one foot in front of the other. It is here I must commend Dr. Turek. Questions that I would have said, “Sit down and stay here for 3 hours until you can complete two sentences that are coherent” he politely nodded his head. Good responder, always found a point of agreement, avoided the tough questions with a question (people feel obligated to answer questions, so he often used the tactic, “Well…let me ask you a question…”) and was polite to things that were barnyard inane. He did an outstanding job of catering to his majority audience, while refraining from disassociating the questioner.

One question:

“I am a ‘gnostic’ [I couldn’t tell if he said “Gnostic” or “agnostic” so I will put in an apostrophe to be safe] “and you brought up some interesting points. That stuff about how the universe was designed, and from the Big Bang. I don’t know about all those things on morals and such….and you mentioned how that school…Harvard?” [Audience: “YALE!”] “Yeah…Yale…how it was founded on God and stuff. See, some of that stuff your God did, like in the Old Testament, and in those communities, how it was O.K., but you talked about a moral objective and, well…my question is this:

“Why is it God is always referred to as a male?”

You can’t make this stuff up. Actually, the question was much, MUCH longer, and much more rambling, and never gave us a clue as to where it was headed.

Then we had the Christians who stood up and gave us their testimony and how it is better to believe in a god and be wrong, then not believe in a god and be wrong. Thank you Dr. I-Just-Came-From-My-Bowling-League Pascal. Or if we would just ask Jesus, he would provide all the answers…..if we are sincere, of course.

I never ask questions at such things. The audience is [extremely] hostile, the speaker well-prepared, and even if you DO manage to catch them up, they respond with:

1) Asking a question with a question;
2) State they don’t have time, and recommend a book.
3) Modify the question to a sound bite pleasing to the audience.

About the only thing you can hope for is to ask a question pertinent enough, someone who is actually interested in learning more talks to you afterward.

Was it really a “wasted” evening? Naw—I enjoyed it. Once in awhile I still get cravings to go back to church. Fit in. Be part of “that scene” once more. An evening like this?—great reminder as to why I don’t fit in. If this was “intellectual heavy” for Christian get-togethers, I would commit hari-kari with a pew-pencil in the “emotional-light” situation of church.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Are We Picking on the Little Kid?

The most frustrating and patience-testing trials are those with new lawyers. Inexperienced trial lawyers. (We all had to try our first case. And most of us look back, cringing, and shove that memory as far out of our mind as possible.)

Since they do not know any better, they perform three errors:

1) First they object to every proposed exhibit. You would think, after it has taken me 20 minutes just to introduce 10 letters, and on each one the other side objects, and on each one I establish a foundation, and on each one the judge lets it in—by the 11th letter you think they would get it. Nope.

Me: I move for the admission of Plaintiff’s Exhibit 11.
Them: Objection!
Judge, clerk, court reporter, jury and court officer—Sigh…

2) Because they don’t know where to stand, sit, walk, etc. they unwittingly mimic the more experienced attorney. If the other attorney uses the podium to ask questions--they use the podium to ask questions. If the attorney uses PowerPoint (c)—they try to figure out PowerPoint (c).

A prosecutor told me of a case where the defendant represented himself. The prosecutor noted this mimicking, and whenever the prosecutor stood; the defendant stood. Where the prosecutor walked; the defendant walked. The prosecutor was also aware the defendant had significant body odor. For the closing argument, the prosecutor stood 2 feet in front of the jury box. Sure enough—the defendant did as well! The prosecutor said you could see the front row rearing back, attempting to avoid the smell.

3) Throughout this bumbling, they treat this trial as if it was the Scopes Monkey Trial, the Dover Case, the Murder case against O.J. Simpson and the McDonald’s coffee case all wrapped up in one. When one witness is sufficient—they bring twelve. When one question would do—they ask questions for an hour. Incompetently. Frustratingly. Infuriatingly to the judge and opposing counsel.

What is most surprising about this--is how often they win! There is a sympathetic factor. To many juries, it seems that mean ol’ judge is picking on them for not allowing in this certain exhibit. (An exhibit an experienced trial lawyer would NEVER try to introduce, since it was clearly barred by the Rules of Evidence.)

The experienced lawyer seems too polished. Too certain. Too dismissive of the bumbling, stumbling young person.

One has to learn how to delicately demonstrate the other side is wrong, without offending the sensibilities of the jury.

I wonder how Senator Biden will be able to do this in his debate with Governor Palin.

We have now seen the interviews of Governor Palin. She is terrible. There is no other word. Read the transcripts of her response to the bail-out and explain what she was talking about. She continues to defend the fact she is Governor of a State close to Russia as giving her qualifications for making foreign policy!

Governor Palin appeals to the “average U.S. citizen”—because that is exactly what she is: an average citizen. She is the “someday even you can be President.” She is the ideal we think of in the Hollywood, “Gosh, I’m going to make a difference in this world” and goes from housewife to Vice-President in 1 hour and 45 minutes. Disney (c) has repeated the theme so many times from so many demographics, I think the only thing left is making an iguana the President within the requisite time frame!

As Americans we have an interesting sympathy with the underdog. With the concept of some unheard of boy walking on to the football team without an invitation or scholarship, and becoming the Heisman Trophy Winner. When I was working at a restaurant, the new waiters and waitresses had to wear a big ribbon with the word “TRAINEE” on their name-tag. They loved that ribbon. Because they could get away with more mistakes and got much larger tips. Customers had sympathy, because they were a “TRAINEE.” Once that tag came off it was, “Waiter, where is my food and be snappy about it!”

(Curiously, one place we do NOT grant such charity is for referees at weekend soccer games. Believe me I know! Our organization can’t get people to referee because of the parent’s catcalls upon a mistaken call. [Which will happen—referees are human.] Try telling a group of soccer parents, “Cut me a break, I am training at refereeing” and they would burn you in effigy. At least you hope in effigy…)

I am eagerly looking forward to the Vice-Presidential Nominee Debate to see how Senator Biden handles this phenomenon. How can he point out the sheer stupidity of responses made by Gov. Palin, without looking like he is picking on the little guy? How can he debate and discuss without appearing mocking and rude? How can he get around the sympathy factor?

If it was me (and no one is coming to me for campaign advice) I would get the elephant out of the room immediately. The first baffling answer she gave, I would state something like this:

“That answer did not make any sense. Look, Governor Palin should be commended for her rising political career. But this is a national position that requires knowledge and specific resolutions. Not talking points. Not broad, incomprehensible statements.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Was Timothy and Titus the same person?

If you are the type to skip ahead to the conclusion; I will save you the trouble. I think the hypothesis they were two different people solves more questions than the hypothesis they were the same. Still an interesting discussion without a clear cut definitive.

We have all had internet interactions where the other side says, “I will get back to you on this” and never does. I fear, in this regard, I am the guilty party. The biggest problem I have faced is how to present it in reasonably readable fashion, and to come to any sort of conclusion. Instead you are about to get more of a mish-mash, rather than a cohesive wholly-thought out argument. Make you own conclusions.

How did the question even come up? Some time ago (February) I wrote a blog on Why I Don’t Trust Acts. After a bit of debate it scrolled off the radar (as blog entries do) until a much later comment by Richard Fellows. If you link on Mr. Fellows’ site, you will see a number of arguments—one argument being that Titus and Timothy are the same person; Paul changed Titus’ name to Timothy.

I have yet to figure out how Titus and Timothy being the same person affects the historicity of Acts or lack thereof. I was unclear as to how their being the same would resolve some unperceived conflict. If anyone could explain how—I would appreciate it.

One problem is attempting to resolve the chronology of Paul, in relation to his sending Titus/Timothy and their returning to him. Using the letters, we come up with one chronology and using Acts we come up with a completely different and less workable chronology. You may be interested in the Chronological Comparisons of Paul’s letters to book of Acts.

I did not use Acts, since its historical accuracy is in question. Nor did I use the Pastorals, as these were not written by Paul. So, using the genuine Pauline Letters we have the following verses with Timotheos:

1 Thess 1:1: “Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Thess. 3:2: “And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:”

1 Thess. 3:6: “But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you:”

1 Cor. 4:17: “For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church.”

1 Cor. 16:10: “Now if Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear: for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do.”

2 Cor. 1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia:”

Rom. 16:21 “Timotheus my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you.”

Php 1:1: “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:”

Php. 2:19:” But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state.”

Philemon 1:1; “Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer,”


And the following verses for Titos:

2 Cor. 2:13, “I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia.”

2 Cor. 7:6-7“Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus; And not by his coming only, but by the consolation wherewith he was comforted in you, when he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more.”

2 Cor. 7:13-14: “Therefore we were comforted in your comfort: yea, and exceedingly the more joyed we for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all. For if I have boasted any thing to him of you, I am not ashamed; but as we spake all things to you in truth, even so our boasting, which I made before Titus, is found a truth.”

2 Cor. 8:6: “Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also.”

2 Cor. 8:16-17: “But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you. For indeed he accepted the exhortation; but being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you.

2 Cor. 8:23: “Whether any do inquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren be inquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ.”

2 Cor. 12:18: I desired Titus, and with him I sent a brother. Did Titus make a gain of you? walked we not in the same spirit? walked we not in the same steps?”

Gal. 2:1-3: Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me. And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain. Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.”


You may notice that Titus and Timothy are never specifically referred to in such a way to affirmatively declare them as separate people. We do not have a verse, “Timothy and I sent Titus to you.” If we take the books in order of writing:

1 Thessalonians: Timothy only.
1 Corinthians: Timothy only.
2 Corinthians: One mention of Timothy, then multiple of Titus.
Galatians: Titus only (referring back to 17 years post-conversion, around 50 C.E. perhaps)
Romans: Timothy only.
Philippians: Timothy only.
Philemon: Timothy only.

This does put Titus in the earlier years of Paul and the reason Galatians uses “Titus” is that was his name they were familiar with when Paul establishes this church. (Note: Acts leaves Titus completely out of the trip to Jerusalem.)

The argument regarding the one book that mentions both—2 Corinthians—is that Paul was making a point by referring to Titus’ old name, as more familiar to the Corinthians. Yet then why not use it in the first instance of 2 Cor. 1:1?

While the books of 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus (commonly referred to as “the Pastorals”) were not written by Paul, the fact the author(s) used two different names would indicate two different people. (Albeit, if all three Pastorals were written by the same person, this raised the question as to why they would have used two names?)

Very little is known of what happened to Timothy or Titus. According to legend, Timothy became the Bishop of Ephesus, until martyred at the age of 80 or so. Titus became the Archbishop of Crete, living to the age of 90. If one holds the legends as true, it would have to be two different people. If one holds the legends to be…well…legends, then it could possibly be one.

If they were two different people, it answers the following questions:

1) Why were both mentioned in 2 Corinthians?
2) Why are separate Pastoral books named after them?
3) Why are there different legends as to their legacy and death?

However, the answers are not as weighty as we may think.

In response to the first question, Paul also refers to “Cephas” and “Peter” in Galatians. Assuming they were the same person, he does write two different names for the same person in one letter.

In response to the second question, we can note that 1 Peter and 2 Peter were both named after Peter, yet were not written by the same person. Assigning a name to a book was a choice—not necessarily a designation as to the actual authorship. If Titus and Timothy were the same person, an author could have chosen to use the preceding name for one book, and a later name for another. Assuming one author.

And multiple legends could arise from one person. Consider poor Bartholomew who, as various legends have it, was crucified or beheaded or flayed alive or we don’t know what happened to him.

We do have instances of claimed different names for one person. Saul/Paul. Silas/Silvanus. Peter/Cephas. Many apologetical defenses for claims of inerrancy against contradictory names is that the person had two names.

So I leave it to you.

Was Timothy and Titus the same person?
Does it matter?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Religious Suppression

I have been having a discussion about the Secularization of America Here. (I know—I have been working on a blog entry. This has been more entertaining.)

Question: Do you think Christianity is being suppressed in the marketplace of ideas in America?

I have been arguing that Christianity seems to be prolific in America—in the election process (Rick Warren; Sarah Palin), in the airwaves, and in the general populace. My friend, Ten Minas Ministries, seems to think Christians are being hindered from expressing their beliefs.

What do you think?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Keep your eye on the Methodology

Anyone discussing with me knows I harp on and on about methodology. Here is a great example as to why. Senator McCain was interviewed and said:

McCain: Of course, I think, overall, she's by far the best candidate. And, again, being governor with an 80 percent approval rating of America's largest state, I think, is a very significant plus.


Do you see the switch in methodology there? (Hint: Was Governor Palin approved by acreage?)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11, 2001 – September 11, 2008

“Are you better off now?” The election battle cry of President Reagan in 1980, asking the American populace whether they were in a better position than when President Carter began his presidency. President Clinton revived the same idiom against President Bush (the first one.)

The question I ask, seven years later—“Are you better off?”

Obviously, the problem comes in what it means to be “better”? We often hear tales (and perhaps even lived them) where a newly married couple struggles financially to afford a tiny apartment, one barely-working car and a newborn on the way. Striving together, they struggle through and become financially independent. Yet what happens? They become worried and depressed over the rise and fall of their stock portfolio; over the new addition to the house; over who has to work how many hours to afford both Lexus automobiles. They see less of each other in their 4,500 square foot house than they did in their 900 square foot apartment.

Are they “better”? Financially—yes. Emotionally, mentally and as a family—no. Many would secretly sigh and look back with longing to the days they struggled financially, because the emotional teamwork was more satisfying than heated leather seats.

So now we are seven years later. Are you better off?

Certainly we have improvements in security. After the tragedy, we recognize the security holes in airports and have taken firm steps to patch those holes. It would be harder for a terrorist to replicate 9/11 today than it was seven years ago. This brought terrorism sharply into focus for Americans, making it a reality in our own country rather than something one read about in the papers happening to other people in other countries, speaking other languages.

But I also see our nation as having become a nation of fear. After a computer glitch caused delays in air travel, the first statement released was, “This is NOT a terrorist attack.” As if the first fear we had was “another 9/11.” We have an incomprehensible chart of colors; allegedly warning us to the level of possible terrorist activity (anyone know what color we currently are?) and the media immediately screams headlines when the color changes due to a “possible credible terrorist threat.”

We won’t publish books due to fear over terrorist response. We won’t publish cartoons because of fear over terrorist response. We slog our way through Afghanistan with no real purpose, no real objective—all on the fear that if we were not there Osama bin Laden would re-appear. We entered an unjustified war, based on faulty information. Why? Because we were afraid.

Our current presidential election process permeates with speeches and questions as to which candidate provides better national security. “Who do you want to answer the phone at 3 a.m.?” We fear what that phone call would be.

There are benefits to fear. Your body starts to produce adrenaline. Your senses become keenly aware. You become proactive as to looking for danger, rather than re-active. It is the difference between walking down a dark street in an unfamiliar neighborhood and walking to your car at your local grocery store at 2 in the afternoon.

After a while, though, we become numb to fear. The adrenaline stops. We are afraid, but we don’t know how to act, or how to respond. We become lethargically uneasy. Rather than being sharp and focused, we cower—from what or who we don’t even know.

Today, seven years later, it is time for the Phoenix to rise from the ashes. It is time to stand up and say, “Yes, I am justifiably afraid of terrorist attacks; but I am not going to let that cower me. I am not going to cringe in fear every time someone mentions 9/11. I am not going to allow my government, my legislators and my president trample my freedoms, lie to me, and ignore the Constitution of the United States.”

We have let the government decimate the rights we hold so dear, out of a groveling fear. Listen in to my telephone calls? Well…O.K. as long as it might catch terrorists. Lie about going to war? Well…O.K. as long as it kills terrorists. Let American soldiers die and die and die. Well…O.K. ‘cause we haven’t had any terrorist attacks since 9/11.

Enough! We must no longer allow our government to use the excuse of our fear of 9/11 to torture prisoners. To deny them habeas corpus. To stop reading them their rights.

We must channel our fear to react positively. Put in place safeguards to prevent terrorist attacks—yes. But not to the point of losing what freedoms we had prior to 9/11. Not to the point of becoming terrorists ourselves. Seven years later, the terrorists of 9/11 have gained a far greater outcome than they could ever imagine. They have brought the American Giant to its knees in fear, in concert with a government run amok.

Today we honor the victims of 9/11. We remember proudly the firefighters, police, dock workers and citizens who attempted to save as many lives as they could on that day. Some dying for their efforts so others could live. We recall our own horror and fear on that day—the surreal understanding terrorism had struck the homeland of America.

Rather than limply move along through another year with cringing fear, we must embrace our fear and say, “Never again.” We will oppose terrorism and protect our citizenry, but we will not forego our freedoms either. We will not succumb to the terrorist’s tools of fear and intimidation by allowing our own government to use those same tools to run rough-shod over our rights. We will demonstrate to the world that America can be a place of both freedom and security. That it is not an “either/or” proposition.

We will not allow our government to enact laws simply because the statute’s prologue claims it might stop another 9/11. We will not continue to live in fear of both our government and the terrorists. It is time they live in fear of us.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sounds of Silence

Ezra Klien wrote an outstanding piece on the press’s involvement in the American election process.

We have heard the phrase, “If you say it enough times, even a lie will become true.” He talks of the opposite phenomena—if you don’t say it enough, it must not be important. In his own words:

It's sort of like a TV show: If Friends had had an episode where Ross and Rachel hooked up, but never mentioned it again, that would've been weird, but their tryst wouldn't have been a big part of the story. Since they mentioned it all the time, and came back to it, and fit future events into that context, it was a big story. Similarly, if the press reports something and never mentions it again, the public knows to forget it. It's not important. If they mention it constantly -- "I voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it" -- they know it is important.


I fear the same thing happening with the nomination of Gov. Palin. She makes a speech. Numerous falsehoods are pointed out—including the Bridge to Nowhere turn-about. We subsequently discover she implicitly embraces censorship, that she replaces competent employees with loyal followers and as a Mayor sent a city that had 0$ in debt to $22 Million in debt. She has an agenda, and nothing said will sway her from it. (In that respect, she is, indeed, a PTA Mom.)

And what happens when this is pointed out? Cries of “Stop picking on me!” “Not fair!”

“Be silent.”

Because if the press is silent—it is like it never happened. Right?

No, it is NOT time to “move on.” It is time Gov. Palin address these very issues head-on. I wish the interviewers would ask and ask and ask the same questions, “Why did you say you were against the Bridge to Nowhere when you were initially for it?” “Why did your city go into debt?” “Why did you ask a librarian if she would censor books, and why, after the Librarian said ‘No.’—you attempted to terminate her?” “Why did you charge a per diem rate when living at home?” “What happened to that jet—did you sell it for a loss?” “What happened to the chef—is she still employed?”

Sadly, we have come to rely on bloggers to make more noise than the press will.

h/t to James Elliott

Monday, September 08, 2008

Abortion with Exceptions

In the debate on abortion, the oft-heard phrase resounds, “I am against abortion except in the cases of rape, incest or life of the mother.” Over and over, “…rape, incest, life of mother.” “…rape, incest, life of mother.” These are the trifecta of exceptions to abortion.

In fact, Cindy McCain recently noted in an interview how she and Senator McCain parted ways with Gov. Palin on this very issue. The McCains believe abortion is acceptable for rape and incest whereas Gov. Palin gives no exception for rape and incest. (For this blog entry I will not address “life of the mother” and focus on the other two exceptions.)

I am curious as to how those who oppose abortion can be consistent in their method and allow these two exceptions? If you have had any interaction with me at all, you know I focus on methodology, methodology, and methodology. If you are presenting me with a claim that certain objects exhibit a trait (such as some writings are inspired by a god, or some objects are designed by an intelligent designer, or some event occurred in history) I will pester you persistently over and over as to what method you used to make those designations to differentiate from other similar writings, objects or events.

What method is used to come up with these two exceptions and ONLY these two? See, the traditional argument against abortion is that the conceived fetus is a human. And as such, is entitled to greater protection when compared to other considerations. Whereas the pro-abortion crowd points out the conceived fetus is a reproductive choice; emphasizing on the pregnant female’s situation. (And yes, I know using “fetus” instead of “baby” is a loaded term in this debate as well.)

And so we end up with both sides talking past each other; each focusing on a different emphasis. The anti-abortion group, while sympathetic to the female, firmly stands on the sanctity of human life holding precedence over the financial, social or environmental status of the mother. The anti-abortion company, while sympathetic to the potential for the fetus to develop to full human rights, indicates the fetus is part of the female’s body, and it is her choice what to do with her body.

Yet all of a sudden, the anti-abortionists, in creating these exceptions, do focus the female’s situation over the sanctity of life. A 17-year-old gets pregnant with her 17-year-old boyfriend? Sad, but she must have the baby. Simply because the circumstances of their sex were not ideal, this does not justify killing a human. Or so goes the argument. But wait—if he forced himself on her--then it is perfectly acceptable to kill the same human?

Why the change? We still have (according to the anti-abortionist) a human. We still have a set of 17-year-old parents. Because the form of insemination included sex in one instance, and rape in another—this justifies allowing the killing of a human?

Certainly we all agree rape is immoral. Question: is consensual sex between 13-year-olds immoral? It is illegal. In fact, consensual sex between a 16-year-old boy and his 15-year-old, 363-day-right-before-her-birthday, was statutory rape in Michigan. Does this exception mean if she gets pregnant on the day before her birthday she can get an abortion, but if she gets pregnant one day later, she cannot?

Why does one day create a difference? Especially if we are talking about a human life?

And incest is even odder. First of all, if it is forced incest, it would fall under “rape” and not need a separate exception. In order to qualify, we must be talking about consensual incest. The single largest concern is the health issue—mixing too familiar genes creating deformities in the child.

Yet in other deformities, which are known, abortion is not allowed. Here it is only a possibility—and it becomes acceptable? If you are pregnant with a Down’s Syndrome baby—according to this argument, you may not get an abortion. Unless you had sex with your first cousin. Then—same consent, same sex, same baby—it becomes acceptable.

Why does one day make a difference? Why does the blood relationship make a difference? Further, “incest” is a tricky word. In Michigan, there is no crime of incest—we are only prohibited from marrying certain relations—including our first cousin. But in other states, (Such as Alaska one can marry their first cousin.

Where do we find the definition of “incest” whereby one knows it qualifies as an exception to the prohibition on abortion? Is it first cousin? Second Cousin? 13th Cousin? Where do we find the distinct definition of statutory rape? (The age of consent changes state-by-state in America, and county-by-country as well.)

What has happened is that these words, “What about rape and incest?” have become political hot potatoes. They have become a catch-phrase to the point no one even thinks about the implications. How much consensual incest is occurring where abortions are an issue?

Because the anti-abortionist finds it uncomfortable to be placed in the situation of saying, “A woman, under the awful circumstances of a rape, must give birth to the rapists’ child,” vacillate and capitulate there are at least some circumstances in which the human life is no longer sacrosanct, and can be morally terminated. Incest just sounds bad, too, and has been tacked on to “rape” so many times, it has become a mantra—“except in cases of rape and incest.”

While I abhor Gov. Palin for other reasons; her belief abortion is never allowed, including situations of rape and incest is far more consistent. Once “special circumstances” allow an exception, we introduce the question—“what method do you use to determine special circumstances?”

Rape is a horrible situation. But so is having a baby at age 14 with a father whose greatest ambition at the moment is to make the Junior Varsity basketball team. So is having a baby when there is no enough food to feed the rest of the family. So is having a crack baby. Arguably, all of these situations are worse than two cousins having sex. Yet that, too, is apparently an exception.

The question that should be asked the McCains (but never will be) is this—“what method did you use to come up with rape and incest to be the only two exceptions to abortion?”