Thursday, April 14, 2011

Morality Doesn't Come From Religion

By Garrett Fogerlie

The thought that morality comes from religion is so very wrong. I am often confronted with someone that says, “Well if you don’t believe in Heaven and Hell, what’s to stop you from killing people?” This is an outrageous question! I sincerely hope that it is asked out of ignorance however every time I hear it I can’t help to wonder how little concern the person who asks it has for life. The thought that people are only good because they are afraid of burning in Hell for eternity is an incredibly scary thought!

If we look at the animal kingdom, we see animals risking their lives to help other animals, elephants risk getting stuck while trying to get others out of mud pits. Wolves, lions and other animals sharing food with members of their pack so they don’t starve. Mothers sacrificing themselves when predators attack so that their offspring can have a chance to get away; these things are knobble and they are hardcoded in these animals and in us. It’s rare to see animals killing other animals when it’s not for food, security or mating. The idea that human beings are less moral then far less intelligent animals is preposterous. And then to go further the thought that if you don’t think you will be caught or punished, then why not start murdering is inconceivable. Even the bad apples that do end up being serial killers, it is usually associated with a disease or/and a very traumatic childhood.

None the less I hear this question all the time. My number one rebuttal to this is that Atheists make up around 18% of the American population, while they only make up 0.2% of the prison population. There are less Atheists in prison than Scientologists. With any other religion (except possibly the Amish) their ratio between population and prison population is pretty much a dead match. That means that the percentage of Catholics is around 36% and the percentage of Catholics in prison is also around 36%, as you would think.

I have heard many tries to refute these stats but survey after survey confirms them. However I will point out the more common ones. A standard one I hear is that the actual Atheist population in America is not nearly 18% saying that it is less and at the same time they say that people don’t want to admit to being Atheists so they aren’t telling the truth. These two points contradict each other; it would be like taking two different temperature readings with the same thermometer and then saying the outside readings seem too high, so it must be the thermometer and I’ll just lower those readings manually while on the inside it is too low so I will raise them. It’s poor logic and there have been many studies that have all showed consistent results. The other idea I have come across, by a pastor no less, was that Atheists tend be more intelligent and more educated and this keeps them out of trouble. Perhaps this adds to it, but I’m sure prison has as similar ratio of people with above average intelligence as the standard population does. But this idea, actually this fact, that people that are more intelligent and better educated are more likely to be atheist has to make you think that maybe they are on to something. We listen to scientists and doctors about tons of important things; things that we may barley understand but we know that since these people are more likely to know what they are talking about then we should listen to them this applies to everything except religion! Why? How can people be so ass backwards about this one thing?

To be honest though the stats amazed me when I first saw them, however since I know a lot of religious people I see that the majority of them have little reverence for human life, amongst other things. It’s similar to several police officers I know that openly talk about wanting to kill drug users. I suppose if you though that after you die you get another life, like it’s a video game, you tend to be less careful with the one you have now. Not to diverge here too much, but just in the possibility that there is no life or world after this one, shouldn’t we do all we can to make this one wonderful for us and our children? The worst case scenario in this idea is that we work a bit harder and life is a bit better, and if by chance there is another life then even better no harm was done. We should hope for the best but plan for the worse.

Doing good deeds because you fear the consequences is not moral! Doing good for goodness sake is and it has absolutely nothing to do with the bible. Do not belittle yourself by thinking that you would be a crazy evil person if you didn’t have religion. You are better than that. As Steven Weinberg says,

“Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

This is a very good point. The extremist Muslim terrorists that have been responsible for so many deaths as of late probably would have gone their whole lives without killing anyone, without blowing up buildings and causing devastation all around the world. Without religion there would have been far less wars and far less death. But not even that extreme, without religion, stem cell research could be much further along; the Dark Ages would have been very different. There may not be a prevalence of Gay hate, and picketing funerals and bombing doctors. This is why I believe that God is mans biggest mistake, not the other way around. If there actually is a god, the devastation that he has caused by his random fiddling with peoples lives and civilizations shows that he at the least is not all knowing and more likely he is not a good or amazing god, and does not seem to care at all for the suffering that he has cursed onto this world!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


By Garrett Fogerlie

We are all familiar with infinity. I’m sure you’ve heard that God is infinite, but what does that mean? Is it even possible for something to be infinite; much less to be infinite in a finite space, i.e. the universe or reality?
For thousands of years the idea of infinity has existed but with it came the paradoxes. Ideas like a infinite number system contains twice as much odd numbers as even ones; while at the same time because it is infinite it must also contain an infinite amount of even numbers. There are numerous other infinity paradoxes but I chose this one because whenever I hear that God is infinite I always think that he must contain an infinite amount of evil then too.
Infinity is a concept, it is a thing we use to broaden understanding and solve problems. It should not be used to inflate a bible character! The bible was written in a time when people couldn’t solve Zeno’s paradox. It would be many lifetimes before mathematicians were able to solve Zeno’s paradox with what we now know as the theory of infinite series converging on a limiting value. But at the time the bible was written they could not understand how Achilles could pass the tortoise.
The bible, at least much of the Old Testament is supposedly God’s words written down. I’m not sure why God couldn’t write his own words down, or for that matter, just ingrain his story in our minds. This would surely have given billions of people the possibility of believing in him while his story was making the tediously slow journey out of the Middle East over the last few millennia. Because the people that wrote the bible had little if any understanding of infinity; we should, with a high probability of being correct, remove the title of infinity from God. At the very least, we know that the understanding of infinity has greatly changed since it was bestowed to God.
Infinity was a title given to a lot of things in a time when the number ‘0’ was not understood or even defined.
If God was infinite and contained all knowledge and was timeless, why does he make such human mistakes? Huge mistakes, like creating angels that don’t have freewill only to accidently give some of them free will? (I’m talking of course of Lucifer or Satan and the other angels that followed him to hell.) Mistakes like forgetting to make a mate for Adam after he made males and females of all the other species. God supposedly gave people free will so they could make their own choices but that went so wrong that God had to flood the earth to start over and then over again in the tribulation. Or my personal favorite, creating people with a brain and then punishing them and their offspring for all time because they gained the knowledge of good and evil (from a tree no less).
When it comes down to it, religion doesn’t comfort you, it was a wish of a people that thought that if it didn’t rain it is because they upset God and must now sacrifice a virgin. The euphoria you get from church is the same that you would get if you were with other people minus the religion. It is a wishful thought when you don’t have control over a situation, but you’re more likely to come through unscathed if you put your faith in humanity!

10 Myths & 10 Truths About Atheism

By Sam Harris, SAM HARRIS is the author of "The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason" and "Letter to a Christian Nation."
December 24, 2006
SEVERAL POLLS indicate that the term "atheism" has acquired such an extraordinary stigma in the United States that being an atheist is now a perfect impediment to a career in politics (in a way that being black, Muslim or homosexual is not). According to a recent Newsweek poll, only 37% of
Americans would vote for an otherwise qualified atheist for president.
Atheists are often imagined to be intolerant, immoral, depressed, blind to the beauty of nature and dogmatically closed to evidence of the supernatural.
Even John Locke, one of the great patriarchs of the Enlightenment, believed that atheism was "not at all to be tolerated" because, he said, "promises, covenants and oaths, which are the bonds of human societies, can have no hold upon an atheist."
That was more than 300 years ago. But in the United States today, little seems to have changed. A remarkable 87% of the population claims "never to doubt" the existence of God; fewer than 10% identify themselves as atheists — and their reputation appears to be deteriorating. Given that we know that atheists are often among the most intelligent and scientifically literate people in any society, it seems important to deflate the myths that prevent them from playing a larger role in our national discourse.
1) Atheists believe that life is meaningless.
On the contrary, religious people often worry that life is meaningless and imagine that it can only be redeemed by the promise of eternal happiness beyond the grave. Atheists tend to be quite sure that life is precious. Life is imbued with meaning by being really and fully lived. Our relationships with those we love are meaningful now; they need not last forever to be made so. Atheists tend to find this fear of meaninglessness ... well ... meaningless.
2) Atheism is responsible for the greatest crimes in human history.
People of faith often claim that the crimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were the inevitable product of unbelief. The problem with fascism and communism, however, is not that they are too critical of religion; the problem is that they are too much like religions. Such regimes are dogmatic to the core and generally give rise to personality cults that are indistinguishable from cults of religious hero worship. Auschwitz, the gulag and the killing fields were not examples of what happens when human beings reject religious dogma; they are examples of political, racial and nationalistic dogma run amok. There is no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable.
3) Atheism is dogmatic.
Jews, Christians and Muslims claim that their scriptures are so prescient of humanity's needs that they could only have been written under the direction of an omniscient deity. An atheist is simply a personwho has considered this claim, read the books and found the claim to be ridiculous. One doesn't have to take anything on faith, or be otherwise dogmatic, to reject unjustified religious beliefs. As the historian Stephen Henry Roberts (1901-71) once said: "I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."
4) Atheists think everything in the universe arose by chance.
No one knows why the universe came into being. In fact, it is not entirely clear that we can coherently speak about the "beginning" or "creation" of the universe at all, as these ideas invoke the concept of time, and here we are talking about the origin of space-time itself. The notion that atheists believe that everything was created by chance is also regularly thrown up as a criticism of Darwinian evolution. As Richard Dawkins explains in his marvelous book, "The God Delusion," this represents an utter misunderstanding of evolutionary theory. Although we don't know precisely how the Earth's early chemistry begat biology, we know that the diversity and complexity we see in the living world is not a product of mere chance. Evolution is a combination of chance mutation and natural selection. Darwin arrived at the phrase "natural selection" by analogy to the "artificial selection" performed by breeders of livestock. In both cases, selection exerts a highly non-random effect on the development of any species.
5) Atheism has no connection to science.
Although it is possible to be a scientist and still believe in God — as some scientists seem to manage it — there is no question that an engagement with scientific thinking tends to erode, rather than support, religious faith. Taking the U.S. population as an example: Most polls show that about 90% of the general public believes in a personal God; yet 93% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences do not. This suggests that there are few modes of thinking less congenial to religious faith than science is.
6) Atheists are arrogant.
When scientists don't know something — like why the universe came into being or how the first self-replicating molecules formed — they admit it. Pretending to know things one doesn't know is a profound liability in science. And yet it is the life-blood of faith-based religion. One of the monumental ironies of religious discourse can be found in the frequency with which people of faith praise themselves for their humility, while claiming to know facts about cosmology, chemistry and biology that no scientist knows. When considering questions about the nature of the cosmos and our place within it, atheists tend to draw their opinions from science. This isn't arrogance; it is intellectual honesty.
7) Atheists are closed to spiritual experience.
There is nothing that prevents an atheist from experiencing love, ecstasy, rapture and awe; atheists can value these experiences and seek them regularly. What atheists don't tend to do is make unjustified (and unjustifiable) claims about the nature of reality on the basis of such experiences. There is no question that some Christians have transformed their lives for the better by reading the Bible and praying to Jesus. What does this prove? It proves that certain disciplines of attention and codes of conduct can have a profound effect upon the human mind. Do the positive experiences of Christians suggest that Jesus is the sole savior of humanity? Not even remotely — because Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and even atheists regularly have similar experiences. There is, in fact, not a Christian on this Earth who can be certain that Jesus even wore a beard, much less that he was born of a virgin or rose from the dead. These are just not the sort of claims that spiritual experience can authenticate.
8) Atheists believe that there is nothing beyond human life and human understanding.
Atheists are free to admit the limits of human understanding in a way that religious people are not. It is obvious that we do not fully understand the universe; but it is even more obvious that neither the Bible nor the Koran reflects our best understanding of it. We do not know whether there is complex life elsewhere in the cosmos, but there might be. If there is, such beings could have developed an understanding of nature's laws that vastly exceeds our own. Atheists can freely entertain such possibilities. They also can admit that if brilliant extraterrestrials exist, the contents of the Bible and the Koran will be even less impressive to them than they are to human atheists. From the atheist point of view, the world's religions utterly trivialize the real beauty and immensity of the universe. One doesn't have to accept anything on insufficient evidence to make such an observation.
9) Atheists ignore the fact that religion is extremely beneficial to society.
Those who emphasize the good effects of religion never seem to realize that such effects fail to demonstrate the truth of any religious doctrine. This is why we have terms such as "wishful thinking" and "self-deception." There is a profound distinction between a consoling delusion and the truth. In any case, the good effects of religion can surely be disputed. In most cases, it seems that religion gives people bad reasons to behave well, when good reasons are actually available. Ask yourself, which is more moral, helping the poor out of concern for their suffering, or doing so because you think the creator of the universe wants you to do it, will reward you for doing it or will punish you for not doing it?
10) Atheism provides no basis for morality.
If a person doesn't already understand that cruelty is wrong, he won't discover this by reading the Bible or the Koran — as these books are bursting with celebrations of cruelty, both human and divine. We do not get our morality from religion. We decide what is good in our good books by recourse to moral intuitions that are (at some level) hard-wired in us and that have been refined by thousands of years of thinking about the causes and possibilities of human happiness.
We have made considerable moral progress over the years, and we didn't make this progress by reading the Bible or the Koran more closely. Both books condone the practice of slavery — and yet every civilized human being now recognizes that slavery is an abomination. Whatever is good in scripture — like the golden rule — can be valued for its ethical wisdom without our believing that it was handed down to us by the creator of the universe.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Debating Religion

This is a lecture by Richard Dawkins extracted from The Nullifidian (Dec 1994)

Religious people split into three main groups when faced with science. I shall label them the "know-nothings", the "know-alls", and the "no-contests". I suspect that Dr John Habgood, the Archbishop of York, probably belongs to the third of these groups, so I shall begin with them. The "no-contests" are rightly reconciled to the fact that religion cannot compete with science on its own ground. They think there is no contest between science and religion, because they are simply about different things. the biblical account of the origin of the universe (the origin of life, the diversity of species, the origin of man) -- all those things are now known to be untrue.

The "no-contests" have no trouble with this: they regard it as naive in the extreme, almost bad taste to ask of a biblical story, is it true? True, they say, true? Of course it isn't true in any crude literal sense. Science and religion are not competing for the same territory. They are about different things. They are  equally true, but in their different ways.

A favourite and thoroughly meaningless phrase is "religious dimension". You meet this in statements such as "science is all very well as far as it goes, but it leaves out the religious dimension".

The "know-nothings", or fundamentalists, are in one way more honest. They are true to history. They recognize that until recently one of religion's main functions was scientific: the explanation of existence, of the universe, of life. Historically, most religions have had or even been a cosmology and a biology. I suspect that today if you asked people to justify their belief in God, the dominant reason would be scientific. Most people, I believe, think that you need a God to explain the existence of the world, and especially the existence of life. They are wrong, but our education system is such that many people don't know it.

They are also true to history because you can't escape the scientific implications of religion. A universe with a God would like quite different from a universe without one. A physics, a biology where there is a God is bound to look different. So the most basic claims of religion are scientific. Religion is a scientific theory.

I am sometimes accused of arrogant intolerance in my treatment of creationists. Of course arrogance is an unpleasant characteristic, and I should hate to be thought arrogant in a general way. But there are limits!

To get some idea of what it is like being a professional student of evolution, asked to have a serious debate with creationists, the following comparison is a fair one. Imagine yourself a classical scholar who has spent a lifetime studying Roman history in all its rich detail. Now somebody comes along, with a degree in marine engineering or mediaeval musicology, and tries to argue that the Romans never existed. Wouldn't you find it hard to suppress your impatience? And mightn't it look a bit like arrogance?

My third group, the "know-alls" (I unkindly name them that because I find their position patronising), think religion is good for people, perhaps good for society. Perhaps good because it consoles them in death or bereavement, perhaps because it provides a moral code.

Whether or not the actual beliefs of the religion are true doesn't matter. Maybe there isn't a God; we educated people know there is precious little evidence for one, let alone for ideas such as the Virgin birth or the Resurrection. but the uneducated masses need a God to keep them out of mischief or to comfort them in bereavement. The little matter of God's probably non-existence can be brushed to one side in the interest of greater social good. I need say not more about the "know-alls" because they wouldn't claim to have anything to contribute to scientific truth.

Is God a Super-string?

I shall now return to the "no-contests". The argument they mount is certainly worth serious examination, but I think that we shall find it has little more merit than those of the other groups.

God is not an old man with a white beard in the sky. Right then, what is God? And now come the weasel words. these are very variable. "God is not out there, he is in all of us." God is the ground of all being." "God is the essence of life." "God is the universe." "Don't you believe in the universe?" "Of course I believe in the universe." "Then you believe in God." "God is love, don't you believe in love?" "Right, then you believe in God?"

Modern physicists sometimes wax a bit mystical when they contemplate questions such as why the big bang happened when it did, why the laws of physics are these laws and not those laws, why the universe exists at all, and so on. Sometimes physicists may resort to saying that there is an inner core of mystery that we don't understand, and perhaps never can; and they may then say that perhaps this inner core of mystery is another name for God. Or in Stephen Hawkings's words, if we understand these things, we shall perhaps "know the mind of God."

The trouble is that God in this sophisticated, physicist's sense bears no resemblance to the God of the Bible or any other religion. If a physicist says God is another name for Planck's constant, or God is a super-string, we should take it as a picturesque metaphorical way of saying that the nature of super-strings or the value of Planck's constant is a profound mystery. It has obviously not the smallest connection with a being capable of forgiving sins, a being who might listen to prayers, who cares about whether or not the Sabbath begins at 5pm or 6pm, whether you wear a veil or have a bit of arm showing; and no connection whatever with a being capable of imposing a death penalty on His son to expiate the sins of the world before and after he was born.

The Fabulous Bible

The same is true of attempts to identify the big bang of modern cosmology with the myth of Genesis. There is only an utterly trivial resemblance between the sophisticated conceptions of modern physics, and the creation myths of the Babylonians and the Jews that we have inherited.

What do the "no-contests" say about those parts of scripture and religious teaching that once-upon-a-time would have been unquestioned religious and scientific truths; the creation of the world the creation of life, the various miracles of the Old and New Testaments,, survival after death, the Virgin Birth? These stories have become, in the hands of the "no-contests", little more than moral fables, the equivalent of Aesop of Hans Anderson. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is irritating that they almost never admit this is what they are doing.

For instance, I recently heard the previous Chief Rabbi, Sir Immanuel Jacobovits, talking about the evils of racism. Racism is evil, and it deserves a better argument against it that the one he gave. Adam and Eve, he argued, were the ancestors of all human kind. Therefore, all human kind belongs to one race, the human race.

What are we going to make of an argument like that? The Chief Rabbi is an educated man, he obviously doesn't believe in Adam and Eve, so what exactly did he think he was saying?

He must have been using Adam and Eve as a fable, just as one might use the story of Jack the Giantkiller or Cinderella to illustrate some laudable moral homily.

I have the impression that clergymen are so used to treating the biblical stories as fables that they have forgotten the difference between fact and fiction. It's like the people who, when somebody dies on The Archers, write letters of condolence to the others.

Inheriting Religion

As a Darwinian, something strikes me when I look at religion. Religion shows a pattern of heredity which I think is similar to genetic heredity. The vast majority of people have an allegiance to one particular religion. there are hundreds of different religious sects, and every religious person is loyal to just one of those.

Out of all of the sects in the world, we notice an uncanny coincidence: the overwhelming majority just happen to choose the one that their parents belong to. Not the sect that has the best evidence in its favour, the best miracles, the best moral code, the best cathedral, the best stained glass, the best music: when it comes to choosing from the smorgasbord of available religions, their potential virtues seem to count for nothing, compared to the matter of heredity.

This is an unmistakable fact; nobody could seriously deny it. Yet people with full knowledge of the arbitrary nature of this heredity, somehow manage to go on believing in their religion, often with such fanaticism that they are prepared to murder people who follow a different one. Truths about the cosmos are true all around the universe. They don't differ in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Poland, or Norway. Yet, we are apparently prepared to accept that the religion we adopt is a matter of an accident of geography.

If you ask people why they are convinced of the truth of their religion, they don't appeal to heredity. Put like that it sounds too obviously stupid. Nor do they appeal to evidence. There isn't any, and nowadays the better educated admit it. No, they appeal to faith. Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence. The worst thing is that the rest of us are supposed to respect it: to treat it with kid gloves.

If a slaughter-man doesn't comply with the law in respect of cruelty to animals, he is rightly prosecuted and punished. but if he complains that his cruel practices are necessitated by religious faith, we back off apologetically and allow him to get on with it. Any other position that someone takes up can expect to be defended with reasoned argument. Faith is allowed not to justify itself by argument. Faith must be respected; and if you don't respect it, you are accused of violating human rights.

Even those with no faith have been brainwashed into respecting the faith of others. When so-called Muslim community leaders go on the radio and advocate the killing of Salman Rushdie, they are clearly committing incitement to murder--a crime for which they would ordinarily be prosecuted and possibly imprisoned. But are they arrested? They are not, because our secular society "respects" their faith, and sympathises with the deep "hurt" and "insult" to it.

Well I don't. I will respect your views if you can justify them. but if you justify your views only by saying you have faith in them, I shall not respect them.


I want to end by returning to science. It is often said, mainly by the "no-contests", that although there is no positive evidence for the existence of God, nor is there evidence against his existence. So it is best to keep an open mind and be agnostic.

At first sight that seems an unassailable position, at least in the weak sense of Pascal's wager. But on second thoughts it seems a cop-out, because the same could be said of Father Christmas and tooth fairies. There may be fairies at the bottom of the garden. There is no evidence for it, but you can't prove that there aren't any, so shouldn't we be agnostic with respect to fairies?

The trouble with the agnostic argument is that it can be applied to anything. There is an infinite number of hypothetical beliefs we could hold which we can't positively disprove. On the whole, people don't believe in most of them, such as fairies, unicorns, dragons, Father Christmas, and so on. But on the whole they do believe in a creator God, together with whatever particular baggage goes with the religion of their parents.

I suspect the reason is that most people, though not belonging to the "know-nothing" party, nevertheless have a residue of feeling that Darwinian evolution isn't quite big enough to explain everything about life. All I can say as a biologist is that the feeling disappears progressively the more you read about and study what is known about life and evolution.

I want to add one thing more. The more you understand the significance of evolution, the more you are pushed away from the agnostic position and towards atheism. Complex, statistically improbable things are by their nature more difficult to explain than simple, statistically probable things.

The great beauty of Darwin's theory of evolution is that it explains how complex, difficult to understand things could have arisen step by plausible step, from simple, easy to understand beginnings. We start our explanation from almost infinitely simple beginnings: pure hydrogen and a huge amount of energy. Our scientific, Darwinian explanations carry us through a series of well-understood gradual steps to all the spectacular beauty and complexity of life.

The alternative hypothesis, that it was all started by a supernatural creator, is not only superfluous, it is also highly improbable. It falls foul of the very argument that was originally put forward in its favour. This is because any God worthy of the name must have been a being of colossal intelligence, a super-mind, an entity of extremely low probability--a very improbable being indeed.

Even if the postulation of such an entity explained anything (and we don't need it to), it still wouldn't help because it raises a bigger mystery than it solves.

Science offers us an explanation of how complexity (the difficult) arose out of simplicity (the easy). The hypothesis of God offers no worthwhile explanation for anything, for it simply postulates what we are trying to explain. It postulates the difficult to explain, and leaves it at that. We cannot prove that there is no God, but we can safely conclude the He is very, very improbable indeed.

The Meaning of Life

By Garrett Fogerlie

People are pretentious. Most everyone I speak to believes that the world will end in their lifetime. That they are vastly superior to anyone that came before them. People manipulate any piece of data to make it fit into whatever they want. For thousands of years we have heard people say that such and such a battle or war was predicted in the bible and said that it will bring the beginning of the end. Even now there are thousands of people that think the world is going to end on December 21, 2012? This is based on an arbitrary date that was a result of the rolling over of an ancient and no longer existent numbering system of the Mayans.
Every time one of these deadlines comes and goes you would think that it would make people immune from being caught up in the next one, but this is not the case. As an example, in 1822 there was a man named William Miller who predicted that the second coming of Jesus Christ was going to be on or before 1844. He attracted a large number of followers and when the predicted day finally came and passed like every other day. Both Millerite and his followers were left generally bewildered and disillusioned. This was the end of it, right? No, he went back to the drawing boards. Coming up with a new date, and once again attracted followers, in fact he attracted more followers then before. This cycle continued for some time. You may think that people would have been smarter than that or perhaps it was just par for the course for that era. However you would be wrong. This group is still around to this day, they are called the Seven Day Adventists.
People are predisposed to thinking that they are special, more special than anyone else. This is one of the reasons that religion is so attractive. It has the ability to elevate a person above the level of a mere human, give them eternal life and a kingdom that one can hardly imagine.
People need to know that their life has purpose. Apparently the magnificent of just being alive is not enough for some people. They inflate their egos by thinking that their consciousness will be around forever. That they may be reincarnated or their spirit will live on till the end of time. I have heard the idea that since energy cannot be created or destroyed then their ‘being’ must transform into something else upon the death of their physical body. But that is not correct; in fact it is a complete misunderstanding of the first law of thermodynamics. Our energy is radiated out of use as heat; the chemical energy of our flesh will be reabsorbed by the earth. The neurons in our brains will cease to fire and all that we are will be gone; just like it is for every other animal on earth.
Or consciousness makes us unique, but not as unique as we would like to believe. We are much more similar to all the other animals than we would like to admit. We have a reverence for the dead, just like elephants do. Sometimes we kill for no reason like cats and dolphins. The chemicals that control so much of physiology are the same from creature to creature. Yet for some reason we feel like we are so different that we will live on after our physical bodies die. We think that we somehow have an extra sense that allows us to know things that cannot be know by any other means.
The thought that we can be immortal devalues life. The arrogance of people, to think that we are so special and above everyone else only serves to devalue the wonder of life. The thought that we may live forever; makes us not live in the moment but ponder the next. To believe that there is a supernatural meaning of life must in turn make the life we actually have insignificant. It is the rarity of the diamond that gives it its value.
Thinking that the world may end should be done only to help prevent it from ending. Believing that it will end is more likely to be a self fulfilling prophecy. When you combine that with the thought that death is irrelevant, than you remove all value from life.

The Cause of Life's Problems

Religion easily has the best bullshit story of all time. Think about it. Religion has convinced people that there's an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn't want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire, smoke, torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer, burn, and scream until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you. He loves you and he needs money. And by believing it's true is the only way you can get away unscathed.

It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I also cannot imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere. Science has been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man's ethical behaviour should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.

The most heinous and the must cruel crimes of which history has record have been committed under the cover of religion. We are afraid of the known and afraid of the unknown. That is our daily life and in that there is no hope, and therefore every form of philosophy, every form of theological concept, is merely an escape from the actual reality of what is. All outward forms of change brought about by wars, revolutions, reformations, laws and ideologies have failed completely to change the basic nature of man and therefore of society. What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof.

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. It is an illusion and it derives its strength from the fact that it falls in with our instinctual desires. The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.

Our ignorance is God; but what we know is science!

If we go back to the beginning, we shall find that ignorance and fear created the gods; that fancy, enthusiasm, or deceit adorned them; that weakness worships them; that credulity preserves them and that custom, respect and tyranny support them in order to make the blindness of men serve their own interests. Ignorance gave birth to gods, and knowledge is calculated to destroy them!

Missing Links? What Do You Mean, ‘Missing’

Creationists are deeply enamoured of the fossil record, because they have been taught (by each other) to repeat, over and over, the mantra that it is full of 'gaps': 'Show me your "intermediates"!' They fondly (very fondly) imagine that these 'gaps' are an embarrassment to evolutionists. Actually, we are lucky to have any fossils at all, let alone the massive numbers that we now do have to document evolutionary history - large numbers of which, by any standards, constitute beautiful 'intermediates'. We don't need fossils in order to demonstrate that evolution is a fact. The evidence for evolution would be entirely secure, even if not a single corpse had ever fossilized. It is a bonus that we do actually have rich seams of fossils to mine, and more are discovered every day. The fossil evidence for evolution in many major animal groups is wonderfully strong. Nevertheless there are, of course, gaps, and creationists love them obsessively.

Let us make use of our analogy of the detective coming to the scene of a crime to which there were no eye witnesses. The baronet has been shot. Fingerprints, footprints, DNA from a sweat stain on the pistol, and a strong motive all point towards the butler. It's pretty much an open and shut case, and the jury and everybody in the court is convinced that the butler did it. But a last minute piece of evidence is discovered, in the nick of time before the jury retires to consider what had seemed to be their inevitable verdict of guilty: somebody remembers that the baronet had installed spy cameras against burglars. With bated breath, the court watches the films. One of them shows the butler in the act of opening the drawer in his pantry, taking out a pistol, loading it, and creeping stealthily out of the room with a malevolent gleam in his eye. You might think that this solidifies the case against the butler even further. Mark the sequel, however. The butler's defense lawyer astutely points out that there was no spy camera in the library where the murder took place, and no spy camera in the corridor leading from the butler's pantry. He wags his finger, in that compelling way that lawyers have made their own. 'There's a gap in the video record! We don't know what happened after the butler left the pantry. There is clearly insufficient evidence to convict my client.'

In vain the prosecution lawyer points out that there was a second camera in the billiard room, and this shows, through the open door, the butler, gun at the ready, creeping on tiptoe along the passage towards the library. Surely this plugs the gap in the video record? Surely the case against the butler is now unassailable? But no. Triumphantly the defense lawyer plays his ace. 'We don't know what happened before or after the butler passed the open door of the billiard room. There are now two gaps in the video record. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, my case rests. There is now even less evidence against my client than there was before.'

The fossil record, like the spy camera in the murder story, is a bonus, something that we had no right to expect as a matter of entitlement. There is already more than enough evidence to convict the butler without the spy camera, and the jury was about to deliver a guilty verdict before the spy camera was discovered. Similarly, there is more than enough evidence for the fact of evolution in the comparative study of modern species (Chapter 10) and their geographical distribution (Chapter 9). We don't need fossils - the case for evolution is watertight without them; so it is paradoxical to use gaps in the fossil record as though they were evidence against evolution. We are, as I say, lucky to have fossils at all.

What would be evidence against evolution, and very strong evidence at that, would be the discovery of even a single fossil in the wrong geological stratum. I have already made this point in Chapter 4. J. B. S. Haldane famously retorted, when asked to name an observation that would disprove the theory of evolution, 'Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian!' No such rabbits, no authentically anachronistic fossils of any kind, have ever been found. All the fossils that we have, and there are very very many indeed, occur, without a single authenticated exception, in the right temporal sequence. Yes, there are gaps, where there are no fossils at all, and that is only to be expected. But not a single solitary fossil has ever been found before it could have evolved. That is a very telling fact (and there is no reason why we should expect it on the creationist theory). As I briefly mentioned in Chapter 4, a good theory, a scientific theory, is one that is vulnerable to disproof, yet is not disproved. Evolution could so easily be disproved if just a single fossil turned up in the wrong date order. Evolution has passed this test with flying colours. Skeptics of evolution who wish to prove their case should be diligently scrabbling around in the rocks, desperately trying to find anachronistic fossils. Maybe they'll find one. Want a bet?

-Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth

Me and Religion

I remember when I was 15 or so and I met a person that not only wasn't Christian but was an Atheist! I was shocked, I said, "Shouldn’t you just accept Jesus into your heart so that incase your wrong you may go to heaven?" It is only later that I realised that certainly if God is God he would notice that someone who believes in him for that reason is just hedging their bets and God would certainly not except that person into heaven.

I grew up in a Christian home, many members of my family were missionaries and the majority of those who weren’t were at least heavily involved in the church. I went to a private Christian school from kindergarten to my freshman year in high school. My school had a ‘bible class’ that was just as important as any other class if not more, and you could be held back if you did not pass it. And its science class was mostly misinformation which main points were mostly how to mock evolutionists with phrases like, “how do you know, where you there?” Even at that age, I thought that phrase was a bit useless since I wasn’t there for any of the stories in the bible. I hated that school completely; the principle had a paddle that had holes drilled in it to give it better wind resistance. A paddle that I soon became well acquainted with.

But because I was so immersed in Christianity, it gave me a view that I think few people get. I started to notice how every person twisted and manipulated the bible to conform to what they wanted:

“Did you have a child that died before he believed in God? No problem God understands that he was a child and would certainly save him from Hell.”

“When you get to heaven you will not remember your previous life, because God doesn’t want you to be sad, thinking of loved ones that are now burning in Hell.”

Or one of my personal favorites,

“The Old Testament is no longer valid because Jesus changed everything in the New Testament so we don’t need to follow the Old.” 
This is a view that seemed to flip-flop every year with each new bible teacher. Not to mention that they use this to exclude all the atrocities in the Old Testament, but I haven’t heard anyone say that the Decalogue (Ten Commandments) is null and void. A view that I’m sure many people out there have though.

These contradicting ideas may be laughed off by some people thinking, “Oh that must just be what a couple nuts think.” But it isn’t! When you believe in something like you do, and go to a church, you assume that everybody there shares your same believes. It’s shocking that out of the hundreds of people who’s beliefs I am very well acquainted and the thousands more that I’ve heard, they disagree on some major key issues. Things like, “if you accept Jesus into your heart, and then grow up, change your mind and denounce him; you will still get into heaven.”

Surely if God is real and the bible is his spoken word; than it should be precise, cut and dry exact! He wouldn’t want you to go to Hell over a minor misunderstanding, especially if you lived a good life. Right?

Religion does do harm! If it didn't I would have less of a problem with it. The harm that religion causes goes far beyond all the wars, genocide and murders made in its name. It causes ‘hidden’ harm; harm that is interlaced in common society. Like the Pope going to Africa, a continent most ravaged by AIDS and telling them they cannot use condoms!

"When I hear from people that religion doesn't hurt anything, I say really? Well besides wars, the crusades, the inquisitions, 9-11, ethnic cleansing, the suppression of women, the suppression of homosexuals, fatwa’s, honour killings, suicide bombings, arranged marriages to minors, human sacrifice, burning witches, and systematic sex with children, I have a few little quibbles. And I forgot blowing up girl schools in Afghanistan."Bill Maher

Religion removes the amazingness of the universe, strips it of its complexity and says that a God snapped it into existence and we could never understand how so don’t bother to try. Religion makes life unspecial, takes away its uniqueness and leaves it far less important. It is no wonder that the vast majority of all murders are created by religious people! In short, RELIGION POISONS EVERYTHING!
 --Garrett Fogerlie

Monday, April 11, 2011

The God of Abraham

The God of Abraham is a ridiculous fellow capricious, petulant, and cruel and one with whom a covenant is little guarantee of health or happiness. If these are the characteristics of God, then the worst among us have been created far more in his image than we ever could have hoped.

The God of Abraham is not only unworthy of the immensity of creation; he is unworthy even of man.

The God of Abraham wants heresy expunged. One look at the book of Deuteronomy reveals that he has something very specific in mind should your son or daughter return from yoga class advocating the worship of Krishna:

If your brother, the son of your father or of your mother, or your son or daughter, or the spouse whom you embrace, or your most intimate friend, tries to secretly seduce you, saying, "Let us go and serve other gods," unknown to you or your ancestors before you, gods of the peoples surrounding you, whether near you or far away, anywhere throughout the world, you must not consent, you must not listen to him; you must show him no pity, you must not spare him or conceal his guilt. No, you must kill him, your hand must strike the first blow in putting him to death and the hands of the rest of the people following. You must stone him to death, since he has tried to divert you from Yahweh your God. . . .
(Deuteronomy 13:7-11)

While the stoning of children for heresy has fallen out of fashion in our country, you will not hear a moderate Christian or Jew arguing for a "symbolic" reading of passages of this sort. In fact, one seems to be explicitly blocked by God himself in Deuteronomy 13:1
"Whatever I am now commanding you, you must keep and observe, adding nothing to it, taking nothing away"

The above passage is as canonical as any in the Bible, and it is only by ignoring such barbarisms that the Good Book can be reconciled with life in the modern world. This is a problem for "moderation" in religion: it has nothing underwriting it other than the unacknowledged neglect of the letter of the divine law.

The only reason anyone is "moderate" in matters of faith these days is that he has assimilated some of the fruits of the last two thousand years of human thought (democratic politics,6 scientific advancement on every front, concern for human rights, an end to cultural and geographic isolation, etc). The doors leading out of scriptural literalism do not open from the inside. The moderation we see among non-fundamentalists is not some sign that faith itself has evolved; it is, rather, the product of the many hammer blows of modernity that have exposed certain tenets of faith to doubt. Not the least among these developments has been the emergence of our tendency to value evidence and to be convinced by a proposition to the degree that there is evidence for it. Even most fundamentalists live by the lights of reason in this regard; it is just that their minds seem to have been partitioned to accommodate the profligate truth claims of their faith. Tell a devout Christian that his wife is cheating on him, or that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible, and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else, and to be persuaded only to the extent that you give it. Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever.
-Sam Harris, The End Of Faith

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Why Is 'Religion' Sacred

Religion has certain ideas at the heart of it which we call sacred or holy or whatever. What it means is, 'Here is an idea or a notion that you're not allowed to say anything bad about; you're just not. Why not? – because you're not!'

If somebody votes for a party that you don't agree with, you're free to argue about it as much as you like; everybody will have an argument but nobody feels aggrieved by it. If somebody thinks taxes should go up or down you are free to have an argument about it. But on the other hand if somebody says 'I mustn't move a light switch on a Saturday', you say, 'I respect that'. Why should it be that it's perfectly legitimate to support the Labor party or the Conservative party, Republicans or Democrats, this model of economics versus that, Macintosh instead of Windows - but to have an opinion about how the Universe began, about who created the Universe . .. no, that's holy? . ..

We are used to not challenging religious ideas but it's very interesting how much of a furore Richard creates when he does it! Everybody gets absolutely frantic about it because you're not allowed to say these things. Yet when you look at it rationally there is no reason why those ideas shouldn't be as open to debate as any other, except that we have agreed somehow between us that they shouldn't be.
–Douglas Adams

Necessity of the Old Testament to the New One

The work of rereading the Old Testament is sometimes tiring but always necessary, because as one proceeds there begin to occur some sinister premonitions. Abraham, an ancestor of all monotheism, is ready to make a human sacrifice of his own first-born. And a rumour comes that "a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son." Gradually, these two myths begin to converge. It's needful to bear this in mind when coming to the New Testament, because if you pick up any of the four Gospels and read them at random, it will not be long before you learn that such and such an action or saying, attributed to Jesus, was done so that an ancient prophecy should come true. (Speaking of the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem, riding astride a donkey, Matthew says in his chapter 21, verse 4, "All of this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet." The reference is probably to Zechariah 9:9, where it is said that when the Messiah comes he will be riding on an ass. The Jews are still awaiting this arrival and the Christians claim it has already taken place!) If it should seem odd that an action should be deliberately performed in  order that a foretelling be vindicated, that is because it is  odd. And it is necessarily odd because, just like the Old Testament, the "New" one is also a work of crude carpentry, hammered together long after its purported events, and full of improvised attempts to make things come out right. For concision, I shall again defer to a finer writer than myself and quote what H. L. Mencken  irrefutably says in his Treatise on the Gods:

The simple fact is that the New Testament, as we know it, is a helter-skelter accumulation of more or less discordant documents, some of them probably of respectable origin but others palpably apocryphal, and that most of them, the good along with the bad, show unmistakable signs of having been tampered with.

Both Paine  and Mencken, who put themselves for different reasons to an honest effort to read the texts, have been borne out by later biblical scholarship, much of it first embarked upon to show that the texts were still relevant. But this argument takes place over the heads of those to whom the "Good Book" is all that is required. 

One recalls the governor of Texas who, asked if the Bible should also be taught in Spanish, replied that "if English was good enough for Jesus, then it's good enough for me.

-- Christopher Hitchens, God is not Great, How Religion Poisons Everything

Christians and The Old Testament

The Christian religion would be much better off if it was not based on the Old Testament. The Old Testament is a barbaric Bronze Age text and the god of the Old Testament is such a horrible character that in any other book he would have been the villain! A murdering evil lunatic that demands you kill women, children, friends, family, and yourself! He is incredibly jealous and demands that you worship him and mutilate your body. He is a self proclaimed vengeful angry god. He is a racist megalomaniac that has no problem committing genocide. He destroys entire cities because some of its citizens don’t worship him. He’s a bloodthirsty, homophobic ethnic cleanser that makes Hitler and Stalin look like angels. Satan must have been thought of as a welcome reprieve, by the people of the time. He is a jealous and vindictive character and should not be worshipped by anyone!

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

It is unfortunate that any world religion worships him, yet many do. It’s amazing that the world is as peaceful as it is since a majority of its inhabitants look up to his as a role model. The Christian religion had to include the old testament because without it’s perditions to fulfil the story of Jesus would not have been that popular. It is frankly shocking that over the 15 or so centuries, while the new testament was whittled down to what it is now (see Canonization), that the old testament didn’t undergo the same hacking; removing its horrors and its unforgiving and bloodthirsty god character. Not to mention cleaning up as many possible contradictions as possible. But I assume that doing so would have left only a very small pamphlet consisting mostly of family trees and various pointless meanderings.

Jephthah Sacrifices His Daughter to God

In Judges, chapter 11, the military leader Jephthah made a bargain with God that, if God would guarantee Jephthah's victory over the Ammonites, Jephthah would, without fail, sacrifice as a burnt offering 'whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return'.
Jephthah did indeed defeat the Ammonites ('with a very great slaughter', as is par for the course in the book of Judges) and he returned home victorious. Not surprisingly, his daughter, his only child, came out of the house to greet him (with timbrels and dances) and - alas - she was the first living thing to do so. Understandably Jephthah rent his clothes, but there was nothing he could do about it. God was obviously looking for-ward to the promised burnt offering, and in the circumstances the daughter very decently agreed to be sacrificed. She asked only that she should be allowed to go into the mountains for two months to bewail her virginity. At the end of this time she meekly returned, and Jephthah cooked her. God did not see fit to intervene on this occasion.

-- Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

Richard Dawkins Says...

Here is what Richard Dawkins says about the story of Abraham and Isaac, in his book, The God Delusion.

Once again, modern theologians will protest that the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac should not be taken as literal fact. And, once again, the appropriate response is twofold. First, many many people, even to this day, do take the whole of their scripture to be literal fact, and they have a great deal of political power over the rest of us, especially in the United States and in the Islamic world. Second, if not as literal fact, how should we take the story? As an allegory? Then an allegory for what? Surely nothing praiseworthy. As a moral lesson? But what kind of morals could one derive from this appalling story? Remember, all I am trying to establish for the moment is that we do not, as a matter of fact, derive our morals from scripture. Or, if we do, we pick and choose among the scriptures for the nice bits and reject the nasty. But then we must have some independent criterion for deciding which are the moral bits: a criterion which, wherever it comes from, cannot come from scripture itself and is presumably available to all of us whether we are religious or not.
Apologists even seek to salvage some decency for the God character in this deplorable tale. Wasn't it good of God to spare Isaac's life at the last minute? In the unlikely event that any of my readers are persuaded by this obscene piece of special pleading, I refer them to another story of human sacrifice, which ended more unhappily. Judges, chapter 11, the story of Jephthah and his daughter.

Abraham and Isaac... and God

By Garrett Fogerlie

In Genesis 12:1-3, when Abraham is already 75 years old, God promises him that he will be the father of a great nation. At the time though, he does not have any children and is a bit skeptical. Later in Genesis 13:14-16, God repeats the promises to Abraham again, and again in Genesis 15:4-5. I guess God was really trying to convince Abraham.

Eleven years later Abraham still has not had any children and he starts to get fed up with god's empty promises. So he decides to take things into his own hands and rapes his slave girl, Hagar. Hagar gets pregnant, which causes Abraham's wife Sarai to abuse her (Shocking). So she runs away were in Genesis 16:7-16, an angel finds her and tells her that she is pregnant and will give birth to a son and name him Ishmael (which means 'God hears'). So she returns to Abraham, who is 86 now, and he names his son Ishmael.

Thirteen years later, god returns to Abraham again and introduces himself, (apparently Abraham didn't recognise him) and once again, God promises to give him countless descendants. (Also God changes Abraham's name from Abram to Abraham, god knows why, lol) They haggle out a deal, a little circumcision commitment and Abraham's wife Sarai must change her name to Sarah (I have no clue why God is so determined to change people’s names. I can only assume it aids in conception.) At any rate God seems to enjoy naming people and tells Abraham to name his upcoming son, Isaac. After meeting with God, Abraham returns home where he circumcises himself, his child Ishmael, and his slaves. (This must have been very confusing for them; I imagine they must have thought he lost his mind.) Why he chose to circumcise his slaves, is unclear, since they were not Jews and had no covenant with God. I suppose if I had to circumcise myself I would want a few practice runs first.

Genesis chapter 18 through 20 doesn’t add much to the story or Abraham and Isaac. God appears yet again saying that Sarah will have a child. Sarah laughs and then she and God get into a bit of an argument. The rest is mostly about Sodom and Gomorrah.

That’s the background of the story of Abraham and Isaac, for those of you who didn’t know it.

Finally, in Genesis chapter 21 verses 1-2, Sarah, who is now 90 years old now, gives birth to Isaac. When Isaac grew up and was about to be weaned, Abraham prepared a huge feast to celebrate the occasion. But Sarah saw Ishmael making fun of her son, Isaac. So she turned to Abraham and said, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son. He is not going to share the inheritance with my son, Isaac. I won’t have it!”

This upset Abraham since Ishmael was his first son, so he spoke with God, because he wanted to do the right thing. God, being the sadistic prick that he is in the Old Testament, said, “Do whatever Sarah tells you, for Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.”

So Abraham got up early the next morning, prepared food and a container of water, and strapped them on Hagar’s shoulders. Then he sent her away with their son, and she wandered aimlessly in the wilderness of Beersheba.

And here is where the main story starts.
Sometime later, God tested Abraham’s faith, telling him,
“Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love so much, and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”
So the next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. “Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the servants. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.”
So Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders. As the two of them walked on together, Isaac turned to Abraham and said,
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”
“God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham sinisterly replied.
When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”
“Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God.”
Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh which means ‘the Lord will provide’.

The reason I shared this story is because people say that, wow God told him to kill Isaac, but at the last second, he showed his mercy by saving him. First off, God told him to kill his son by sacrificing him, and an angel superseded and prevented the horrific sacrifice, not God.

This story is so popular, people cite it to show what a merciful god, God is. But if you think about the story, it shows a bastard of a god. A god that bargained out a deal to be worshipped and have Abraham circumcise himself and his child, in return, God would give him another child. If that doesn’t show that he is not a God worthy of anyone’s worship, what about having Abraham to send his first born child Ishmael and his mother into the wilderness; or commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac as an offering to himself.

It may be contested that God needed to ‘test’ Abraham to make sure he was worthy of becoming the father of a great civilization. But this idea under minds the idea of God, if he is God, shouldn’t he have just known what Abraham would do, without having to put Isaac through this whole ordeal?

“All three monotheisms, just to take the most salient example, praise Abraham for being willing to hear voices and then to take his son Isaac for a long and rather mad and gloomy walk. And then the caprice by which his murderous hand is finally stayed is written down as divine mercy.”
Christopher Hitchens, God is not Great

When it is all said and done though, Isaac was not murdered, although the whole situation must have been very confusing to him and I’m sure it must have changed the way he thought of his father.

Unfortunately, for Jephthah's daughter, no angels stepped in and stopped Jephthah from sacrificing his daughter to God; as was the deal that God haggled out with Jephthah for helping him defeat the Ammonites. She was burnt to death by her father as God commanded.

-- Garrett Fogerlie