Saturday, August 7, 2010

Manipulating is not Creating

There are many problems with the old creationist argument that the existence of the universe proves there is a god because “just as building must have a maker so must a universe have a creator.” But there is one rebuttal that I have neither seen nor heard elsewhere that I would like to put forward: They are comparing two entirely different things that I will label for clarity “Creating” and “Making.”

Making consists of manipulation of pre-existing matter and energy. It is true that the existence of a building or car presupposes a maker. But it also presupposes something else: pre-existing matter and energy that the maker manipulates. The maker of a building does not “make” it by saying: “Let there be a house. And let be of brick and have shingles of asphalt. And let the brick be yellow in color and the window trim be of almond coloring.” A “maker” makes something by starting with something that already exists. She then manipulates it by changing its shape or size or even applying energy to change its attributes and then assembles the modified pre-existing matter into the building.

A log cabin maker first finds existing trees, chops them down, removes the branches, shapes them and then piles them in a particular way to “make” the cabin walls. The raw materials of glass are subjected to heat until the heat manipulates it into a transparent substance that is then molded or cut to fit holes in the walls to make windows. A sand castle maker does not make the sand, he merely shapes existing sand into a shape we call a castle. Making is not “creating.” It is merely manipulating. And, of course, existing matter and energy can only be manipulated by a manipulator.

Creation ex nihilo or speaking something into existence is a completely different category of event. Where making presupposes the previous existence of matter and energy, creating presupposes the opposite – that nothing exists previously.

Noticing that existing matter and energy can be manipulated tells us absolutely nothing about how the matter and energy came to exist in the first place. Finding a piece of clay in my hobby room and noticing that it can be manipulated into the shape of a horse tells me nothing about how the clay got into my hobby room.

To say that the existence of manipulators manipulating pre-existing matter proves the existence of an intelligent being creating ex nihilo, is a non-sequiter.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

God's Morals

1. Moral Character v. Rules.
One is the absolute bottom line, the crossing of which is immoral. The other may set standards higher than the moral standards for non-moral reasons.

a. Rules can require higher standards than the basic moral standards

i. A Man has a rule requiring employees to show up for work clothed in business attire – coat and tie. Sports jackets are acceptable. Blue jeans are not. Can we take from this that he has a moral standard against nudity or against blue jeans?

ii. At the company picnic, the same man allows the wearing of blue jeans. He has no moral compunction against denim, he just has a higher rule at work.

iii. The same man attends nudist gatherings and has clothing optional parties at his country home. We can see nudity is not a moral issue for him although his rules at work would not allow it for reasons unrelated to his moral standards.

iv. The same man holds a formal dinner party at which Tuxedos are required. Does he have a moral problem with not wearing tuxedos? No. He has already proven that by allowing sports jackets at work, blue jeans at the picnic and full nudity at his parties. It is just at the time of the party, he chooses to raise a rules standard that is higher than his moral standards.

b. The way to determine what a man’s moral character or values are is not to look at rules he has set up at one time and place, but look to see if he, at other times allows lessor standards to be followed. In other words, the moral values are the bare minimum. The moral conduct is measured by what he allows at maximum, not by more stringent rules applied at a specific time.

2. Men’s moral values can change over time. A man who held clothing optional parties/orgies without moral compunction one day, can decide that his moral standards have changed and refuse to allow or attend such parties at a later time.

3. If Yahweh is eternal and unchangeable, his moral standards have not, do not and never will change.

4. Thus, to determine what Yahweh’s moral values are, we need to look at what he has ordained or allowed at any time. Whatever he as approved at any time has to be in accordance with and, therefore, an indication of, his moral character and standards.

5. This does not mean he cannot change mere rules from time to time like the nudist requiring tuxedos at the dinner party or coat and tie at work. But if he ever allowed it, then it is not a violation of his moral principles.

6. What we can glean then from the Bible about Yahweh’s moral values?

a. Slavery is not immoral.
God has no moral compunction against slavery. He expressly and
Repeatedly approved of it in the old testament. Even if you read the
New testament as setting up new rules that mean slavery is not
consistent with Christianity, the fact that Yahweh ordained and expressly
approved it before and the fact that his moral character never changes
means that it cannot violate his moral character and principles.

b. A soldier goes to war. He participates in an attack on a town and kills all of the men. The women are rounded up. He spots a young girl that he likes. He takes her from the group and claims her as his own. He takes her home, shaves her head and gives her one month to mourn the death of her parents. He then has sex with her, with no requirement that she consent. After a few days, he decides she is not as fun as he thought and shows her the door.

Yahweh has expressly said this is acceptable to him. Deuteronomy 21:10-14.
So if you have a moral compunction against this, your sense of morality
is higher than his and clearly cannot derived from him or the Bible. Yes,
you can point to things in the bible that would say don’t do this -- such as do
unto others, etc. – but that is not the bottom line moral standard unless you are
going to say Yahweh’s moral standards change. If he at one time approved of this
conduct, it cannot now violate his moral principles unless those moral principles have changed

Sunday, June 20, 2010


I went to Sunday school for the first time in years. Unfortunately, I chose fathers day for this. As you might expect, the topic was being a "Godly father."

"We all want to be Godly fathers, don’t we?" the teacher asked. His eyes landed on me. "You want to be a Godly father don’t you?" He said directly to me. I returned his gaze but remained still and silent, hoping he would go on and not force what was about to happen. No such luck. "Hello," he said. "Bill. I am talking to you," he said jokingly. " You do want to be a Godly father, don’t you?"

"No. Actually I don’t," I said.

He was clearly surprised at this response. He entertained the thought that I was joking but then sensed I was not. "Why?" he finally said uncomfortably.
"Maybe I misunderstood your question," I said. "I assume the "god" in "godly" refers to Yahweh?"

In his eyes there began to dawn a glimmer of hope that we could get back on the expected track and elicit the correct response if he simply explained his question to me. "Yes," he said, "it does."

"And by "godly" do you mean like Yahweh?"


" And by "like Yahweh," do you mean treat my children like Yahweh treats his?"

"Yes, you’ve got it," he smiled. "And we all want to treat our children like God treats his children, don’t we?"

"Not me," I said. His simile disappeared again.

"Why not?" he asked, looking suddenly uncomfortable again.

"Well, first of all, don’t you believe that Yahweh continually and repeatedly threatens his children with permanent abandonment?"

"No!" he said. "God is always trying to reach his children."

"Don’t you believe that if his children fail to meet his behavioral or belief expectations that he will ultimately reject and abandon them forever without hope in hell?"

This was clearly not where he thought this lesson would go when he started the class. "Didn’t Jesus say that if any of Yahweh’s children saw a hungry man and did not feed him, or failed to clothe a naked man that, one day, the father would pretend not to even know that child and order him to depart into everlasting torture?"

"But only if the child chooses to go," the teacher said.
"Chooses to go to hell?" I asked. "Do you really believe that anyone would actually choose hell?"

"Well, not choose hell. But we can choose to disobey God or reject him."

"Yes," I said, we can choose to disobey. Just like my children often choose to disobey me. And to be a "godly father" then, I would have to threaten my children with total, complete and irreversible rejection and abandonment if they choose to disobey me and reject my love. And to make it more like "god," I would have to threaten to abandon them in the middle of a bad neighborhood filled with pedophiles and thugs in the middle of the night where they could expect to be raped, beaten, tortured and killed. Is that really the kind of father you want to be?"

"Well.... nooo." he said.

"And that is just one example of how Yahweh treats his children. Lets just walk through history as taught by the bible. First, Yahweh created his children. He could have made them tough minded and better able to resist temptation but he made them with human weaknesses. Then he could have left the tree of knowledge out of the garden or made its fruit ugly and repulsive. But he chose to make it "pleasing to the eye" good for food and tasty. But still his children obeyed him and didn’t eat it. So he created a talking snake knowing exactly what was going to happen when the snake talked to his children. And he sat there and watched what he had created and set in motion happen. What kind of father would tell his children not to play in the street, then leave them unsupervised near the street, remove the fence between the yard and the street, send a neighbor kid to try to talk them into playing in the street, and then act like he is surprised when they give in and play in the street? Would you blame the child for playing in the street or the idiot father who, though nominally ordering them to stay out of the street, practically steered them into it by removing all constraints that might stop them and sending someone he knows will actually persuade them to go into the street?

"Lets continue this walk through the bible. He puts together a nation of his favorite children and sets out to raise them to be good and decent people. He gives them some commandments, which include the laudatory instruction not to kill each other. But when this father gets mad at some neighbors for not respecting him, he orders his sons to take up swords and go over to the neighboring village and run those swords through every living thing in the village. You may have heard this argument before, but I will bet it was focused on the harsh treatment of the people being killed. Since we are talking about father-child relationships today, let’s examine this from the point of view of the children of Yahweh. Perhaps among them were good and decent young men who respected others and empathized with the suffering of others. And suddenly, they find themselves being forced, by direct order of their father to look into the eyes of a terrified mother, tear her screaming terrified child from her arms and run a sword through that child and hear its screams turn to coughing and gurgling as it drowned in its own blood and goes limp in this decent young man’s arms. And then, he must turn to the horrified, terrified, grieving mother and run her through and watch the life leave her body. And then he has to turn to a crying terrified adolescent girl, cowering in the corner, pull her out and slice her throat and watch her eyes glaze over and her body go limp. Then he has to turn to the grandpa, who had to watch all of this from his bed and kill him too. And then he has to go to the next house and repeat it all again. Over and over all day long. And then, he has to kill all the family pets and livestock as well. What effect would that have on the young man with the sword? What nightmares would he suffer the rest of his life as he had to watch the babies and terrified children and horrified mothers die again and again because he could not stop the tape from playing and replaying itself in his head? What kind of father would order his sons to do such horrific and awful things? If it really was necessary for Yahweh to kill babies and wipe out entire villages, couldn’t he have done it himself instead of subjecting his children to the horrors of killing babies and old men?

" But it doesn’t end there. When the young men get home, their father tells them that if they see a neighbor pick up a stick on the Sabbath, they have to kill him. And not humanely. They are specifically ordered to kill him viciously and slowly by throwing rocks at him as he cries out and cowers, until he falls to the ground bloodied and beaten. And then continue to throw rocks at him until he lies unconscious, and then continue to throw rocks at him until his unconscious groans cease and he takes a last gasping gurgling breathe and dies.

"And then this young man’s father tells him that if one of his own children fails to give him proper respect or becomes a drunkard, like his own heavenly father, he must abandon his child and ask the neighbors to help him throw rocks at his own child until its whimpering and crying cease and it dies horribly and slowly. And if any of his neighbors ask, he must help them kill their own children in the same awful way. What kind of father would demand such things from his sons?

"And then one day, daddy’s rival at the office offers a bet that if daddy will let the rival torture one of his good obedient sons, the son will turn on him. And daddy takes that bet! He gives permission for a personal enemy to torture and harass his kid unmercifully just to win a bet about how good the kid is. And when the kid has suffered long and endured much but finally breaks and asks his father why he is letting this happen, daddy responds with a stern defensive lecture about how he is the father and Job is the son and Job has no right to ask such questions no matter what horrible things happen to him because of daddy’s bet with the devil.
The teacher could not take it anymore and spoke up. "But all of that was because man sinned. And our loving heavenly Father gave his own son to save us.

"That brings us to the New testament," I said. "So Yahweh, having knowingly created his children susceptible to sin and having set them up for failure now pretends to be angry at them for failing to obey him. So, instead of fixing the things he has messed up; instead of changing the makeup of his children so they desire obedience and find disobedience repulsive, or just flat forgiving and loving them despite the shortcomings he made them with, he comes up with a plan. He calls his children together. He tells them that he is angry at all but one of them for their sinning. One of them he says is one with whom he is "well pleased." But he is going to find away to forgive the others for taking cookies from the cookie jar and the way he is going to do it is to make the ones he is mad at beat and torture his only "good" son and make some of the other children watch this horrible spectacle, telling them that the reason their brother is being tortured is all their fault for not being able to overcome the very nature with which their father created them. And then, when he is all done torturing the one son, he then still proposes to abandon his other children to horrible torture if they fail to bow appropriately and shower praise and honor on daddy for his wonderful plan to save them by torturing big brother. And that brings me back to where I started.

"You asked me if I want to be to my children what Yahweh is to his. And my answer is a resounding no. I hope I can be a much better parent than that. And besides, if I did behave toward my children like Yahweh does to his, I’d be in jail by sundown tomorrow.

God save us from "Godly fathers."

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Time Between Peace

The Time Between Peace

From peace we came and to peace we will return.
Before I was, I was at peace.
For millennia, eons and all of time before time , I did not exist; I was at peace.

Then peace was broken;
By pleasure and pain; by joy and anguish; by elation and despair.
I have known the joy of love and the pain of love lost or unreturned.
I have marveled as I held a small child, newly arrived in this time between peace.
I have known health and I have been sick.
I have known this and more in this time between peace.

I have seen sunrises and sunsets .
I have seen beauty and I have seen ugliness.
I have seen thunderheads build in the fading light of a setting sun.
I have seen lightening flash and heard thunder clap and rumble across the sky.
I have watched it rain – sometimes gently and sometimes in torrents and gales
I have watched snow fall gently on a still winter night and I have watched it fall in a howling blizzard wind.
I have watched a child cuddle a puppy and I have seen a lion rip an antelope to pieces.
I have seen oceans and I have seen deserts.
I have seen majestic mountains and I have seen golden wheat rustling in the breeze on the plains.
Through a microscope, I have seen the intricacy of a single cell.
Through a telescope, I have seen galaxies and contemplated the awesome vastness of space.
I have watched a child become a man.
I have seen peace return to a man.
I have seen all this and more in this time between peace

I have laughed and I have cried.
I have hated and been hated.
I have loved and been loved.
I have felt satisfaction and dissatisfaction.
I have been discontented and I have been contented
I have longed and desired and felt the fulfillment of longing and desire.
I have felt my skin caressed by the sun and a cool breeze.
I have felt all this and more in this time between peace.

Inevitably, this time between peace – this vacation from nonexistence -- will end.
All pain, all pleasure, replaced again by peace.
For new millennia, eons and all time after time, I will not exist; I will be again at peace.
From peace we came and to peace we will return.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

When do gods (Yahweh) use medicine to Answer prayer?

Growing up, I constantly heard the faithful praying for those who were about to undergo surgery or medical tests. The prayers often included a specific request that Yahweh would "guide the surgeon's hand" and "give the doctors and nurses wisdom." And when the results of treatment were good, all credit and praise was given to Yahweh. The surgeons and other medical professionals were just tools in the hands of Yahweh. Their years of schooling and experience and their dedication and hard work were not the direct cause of the good result. No, they were merely Yahweh's answers to the prayers offered to him. In other words, the doctor’s advice and treatment were the answer to the prayers.

Now we have the case of Angela Wright.

She suffered a heart attack. The prayer chains were activated. She suffered a second heart attack. They prayed on. She had a third heart attack. They prayed on. She had a fourth heart attack. They prayed on. She had a fifth heart attack. They prayed on. She had a sixth heart attack.

As a result of the heart attacks and other pre-existing conditions, her toes are turning black and the doctors are concerned that gangrene will set in and advance and become fatal. They have recommended amputation. Rather than accept this wisdom from the doctors as the wisdom of Yahweh provided via the doctors, the family is opposing the treatment. Their read on the events to date is that the sole reason she is still alive is their prayers. In other words, thought she has been in the hospital receiving round the clock treatment for her multiple heart attacks and other problems, the only reason she is alive is that Yahweh has answered their prayers, presumably by “guiding the doctor’s hands” and “giving them wisdom.” (Either that or Yahweh is a cruel sadistic monster that sat up there and watched these yokels beg and plead for his assistance and all he did was to allow (or cause?) five more heart attacks and the resulting complications that now put her in a dilemma between death or loss of her only good leg – he simply increased and prolonged her suffering.)

It seems to me that if Yahweh exists and listens to prayers and answers them, we have several possible interpretations of these events. Among them:

1. Yahweh has no intention of saving her leg and he has "given the doctors wisdom" to know that amputation is the answer and is standing by to "guide the surgeon's hand" in conducting the amputation. But the family is refusing to accept this answer to their prayers and rejecting Yahweh's will for Angela and themselves.

2. Yahweh has no intention of intervening and has decided to let nature take its course. He has decided the answer to their prayers is : "No. I am declining to intervene on this on. It may seem wrong to you but I am Yahweh and I have my reasons. Trust me. "

3. Yahweh fully intends to intervene and save Angela's life and her leg but only if the family will persevere in their hindrance of the medical treatment and continue to pray until Yahweh, in his own good time, steps in. His answer is: "Keep the faith and pray on my child. Joy comes in the morning if you will but keep the faith and ‘endure unto the end.’"
All of these possibilities are accepted by the theists I know. They agree that Yahweh can answer prayers by using people like doctors. He can answer a request for divine intervention with a no and let nature take its course. Or he can simply wait and see if the faithful will remain faithful and then reward them richly if they do. But it is critical for the faithful to know which is happening on any given occasion. Under the first possibility, the answer is for the praying faithful to allow the amputation and praise Yahweh for providing the doctors the wisdom to know it was needed and guiding their hands through the surgery. Under the second, they need to give up on prayer and make a decision based on natural reality, not the hope of a supernatural intervention that will not be forth coming. Under the third, they must oppose the doctors and keep praying.

But here is the question I would like some theists to answer for me. How do you know which it is? How do you know when it is time to oppose the doctors and when it is time to accept their wisdom as Yahweh's answer to your prayers for intervention?

The way I see it, this family and Angela are in a sad and terrible situation. What they are really struggling with is not Yahweh’s will but Angela’s will in light of a no win situation. Angela apparently is vacillating – telling the doctors to get on with the amputation but telling the family she would rather die than loose her only good leg. She is under heavy medication and in an awful situation and it is not surprising that she tells the doctors go when they explain they think she should and then tells the family things that are interpreted as no when they talk to her. This is a really bad situation in which none of the real answers is a good one that everyone will be happy with this time next year. It is a tough call and my heart goes out to them all. But sadder still is the way in which religion is making this so much more difficult. As indicated by my question above, religion is so malleable that it allows people to think what they want is really what some sky pixie wants. I have no doubt that if these devout people – Angela and her family – were all of the frame of mind that life is the highest priority and that loosing another leg can be lived with because Yahweh has helped her live with the loss of the first one, the amputation would have been done and, instead of thrashing around in this awful emotional pain, they would be thanking and praising Yahweh for pulling Angela through the surgery and guiding the surgeon’s hands. And see the amputation as the answer to their prayers. But since they seem to greatly fear life with a double amputation they are refusing to accept the offered medical treatment as the answer to their prayers. And if they ever realize this fact, they are going to be in even more agony trying to determine what it is their silent sky pixie wanted them to do. Maybe if they had just prayed one more day, the leg and the life could have been saved. Maybe if they had just prayed harder. Maybe if they had actually fasted instead of sneaking that sandwich two days into a three day fast. Maybe if they had not thought those impure thoughts. Maybe their faith was not strong enough. Maybe ………

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Playing God (Yahweh.)

With the recent announcement of the synthesis of an organism by Craig Venter’s research team, the predictable protests have begun. One of the most predictable is the concern that by “creating” synthetic life forms, man is “playing God.” I would like for some theist creationist to explain to me the concept of “playing God.” A good place to start is with a clear definition of “create.” That word comes up a lot in creationist arguments but it seems to be ill defined and subject to shifting definitions.

In this universe, matter and energy cannot be “created” or destroyed. It can only change forms. In that statement, “create” obviously means ex nihilo – out of nothing. Because of the law that matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed, it is impossible for man to “create” ex nihilo. All we can do is manipulate existing matter and energy into different forms. When man “creates” a log cabin, he simply changes the form of some tress by cutting them down, laying them in piles and using other materials to hold them together. When Venter and his team synthesized the bacteria, they were merely manipulating existing matter and energy. They “created” nothing ex nihilo.

So theist creationists, when you say that man is “playing God,” are you admitting that your god did not create anything ex nihilo? Are you admitting that some form of something came before your god and your god simply manipulated it into the universe in which we live? If so, from whence came the pre-existing “stuff” your god manipulated into our universe?

If you insist that your god did in fact create all that exists ex nihilo, then how can man be “playing God” when he merely manipulates that existing matter and energy into a different form?

If you still insist that man is “playing God” when he manipulates matter and energy into a synthetic bacteria, can you explain when man’s manipulation of matter and energy becomes “playing God?” Is the manufacturing of a car “playing God?” Is the manufacturing and administration of a vaccine “playing God?” Is building a sand castle “playing God?”

Is it possible that your real concern is that man, by pushing back the frontiers of knowledge, is wresting power from the priests of the gods and rendering continued belief in their existence and begging for their favor less and less relevant? Since the beginning of human history, the followers and priests of the gods have constantly told us that adverse weather (hurricanes, tornados, forest fires, lightening, etc.), disease outbreaks, accidents, losses in war and business are the result of the gods manipulating weather patterns, viruses, rocks, vehicles and even other people into punishing us for failing to properly worship them. But the more things in our universe that we can understand, manipulate and master, the less need we have to beg for the forbearance of the gods. The less justifiable believe in and submission to the gods becomes and the less power their followers and priests have over the rest of us. Thus we are “playing God” in the sense that we are destroying and replacing him.

I for one am glad that my species is refusing to turn away from the tree of knowledge and, instead, eating regularly of its fruit and drinking deeply of the juice of its fruit. Increasing our ability to manipulate our universe, will free us from the superstition and fear that the followers and priests of gods have been using to manipulate us.

If that is playing god, play on Maestro!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Government Nuetrality on Religion is Good for Everyone

I had an e-mail discussion with a theist recently sparked by the recent national day of prayer ruling in federal court. It became apparent to me that a large problem in discussions of church state separation issues is confusion between the issue of neutrality itself and the substantive issue of religion. Theists arguing with atheists about neutrality think that if they agree that the government should be neutral on issues of religion, the atheist have won the religion argument. That is not true.

Of course, there can be no neutrality on the issue of neutrality itself, But that does not prevent neutrality on all other issues. Perhaps the following three examples will help clarify the difference:

1. Country A is at war with Country B. Country C is debating whether to get involved. Citizens for A demand that the government of C support A. Citizens for B demand that the government of C support B. Citizens for the advancement of C advocate for taking the opportunity to attack and conquer both A and B. If the government decides to take no action and declare support for neither A or B, which citizen group won?

That question is a non sequiter. No one won on the substantive issue of who should be supported or attacked. The “winner” was a fourth group advocating neutrality. And that group may consist of people from at least two of the other groups. Supporters of A could still think their government should stay neutral and supporters of B could too. They may want A or B to win but they may agree that C should stay out of it.

2. The Christians think we need to pray to Yahweh for guidance. The Muslims think we need to pray to Allah and make women start wearing burqas. The Atheists think praying is a waste of time and energy and we should devote the time and energy to seeking practical solutions. Some Christians, some Muslims and some Atheists together agree that the government should not choose sides by acknowledging, supporting or discouraging any side. Three resolutions are introduced in the legislature:

a. We hereby declare that the guidance and help from Yahweh is our only hope and, therefore call upon the people to pray to Him for assistance in our time of crises.

b. We hereby declare that the resources and energy of the people are being drained and wasted in religious pursuits and we, therefore, call upon the people to cease all religious practice and observance and concentrate on practical solutions.

c. We recognize that our only hope is the assistance of Allah. We therefore encourage the people to pray to Allah for wisdom and encourage our women to wear burqas.

If the legislature passes none of the options who won? Does anyone really believe that passing none of the offered resolutions is a win for the atheists on the religious debate?

3. A nation’s congress is compromised of Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Pat Robertson, Jerry Fallwell, Billy Graham, Me and an atheist friend. The first question for a vote: Shall the government of this nation be neutral on matters of religion? Of course, Pat, Jerry and Billy vote against neutrality. And guess who votes with them? Stalin and Mao. They certainly were not for state neutrality on religion. Anyone who wants to use government to force their particular view on religion on everyone else – atheist, Christian, Muslim, or other theist -- will oppose neutrality.

The second question is: Which position on religion will we take. Guess how that vote goes? The preachers' votes against neutrality now come back to haunt them. But notice that the vote on neutrality itself was not an “atheist” victory. The atheists were divided on the question. Had the preachers sided with the other half of the atheists on neutrality, the second vote would not have occurred.

Agreeing that the government will not support or attack any position on religion does not mean the atheists win. It means those Christians, Muslims and Atheists who share the belief that the government should be neutral on religion won on the issue of neutrality alone. No one won the religious debate, it rages on among the people unsupported and unfettered by the government.

Why don’t we renew the agreement of our founders that none of us will seek to make the government a party to our religious practices so that all of the people can remain free to practice their religions (or lack thereof) without interference or assistance from the government?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Parable and a Question for Parents

And it came to pass that upon the death of his father, Antiochus became king and ruled over the land of his people. At the beginning of his reign, Antiochus decreed an end to color blindness in the kingdom. His initial decree declared that those who were found to be color blind would not be permitted to hold any form of public employment or serve in sensitive occupations such as physicians, teachers, or lawyers. But as time went by and citizens of the kingdom continued to be found to be color blind, the punishment was increased. Those found to be color blind were imprisoned for life. And each day, a jailer would enter the cell of such prisoners and poke needles into the prisoner’s eyes. This was done to remind them continually of the evil color blindness that had caused them to be imprisoned.

Into this kingdom a child was born. Mindful of the King’s decrees, the child’s parents began training him from birth to distinguish colors. As the child grew, he professed to be able to see the colors. At first it was easy and the child actually believed he could see the difference because he was only shown colors in a specific order. For example, he knew the top light on the traffic signals was red and the bottom light green. When asked what color the light was he, could say with confidence the color based on its position. But as he grew, he began to encounter colors in other contexts in which he struggled to determine the color. By then he knew the King’s decrees and the punishment for failing to be able to distinguish colors. So he struggled mightily to convince himself and everyone around him that he could see the colors. In the evenings he would hold forth on the beauty of the colors in the sunset, repeating what he had heard others say. But deep inside he knew he could not actually see that beauty. He declared the righteousness of the King’s decrees and denounced those evil souls who dared to defy the King by saying openly that they could not see the colors. They deserved the punishment they received.

But then the day came when the child, now a man, could fool himself no longer. He admitted to himself and some close friends that he could not see colors. Eventually, this came to the attention of the King and the man found himself in the King’s court, called to answer for his crime of color blindness. He made his plea:

"Your majesty, I have meant no rebellion against you or your laws. For many years I tried mightily to see the colors that others tell me are so magnificent. I went to physicians and sought all manner of help I could find to make me able to see colors. But in the end, I simple was unable to see them. I did not choose to be unable to see color, I simply am unable to and have chosen to be honest about it rather than continue lying to myself and to others about what I can see and what I cannot see. It is not just to subject me to a lifetime of imprisonment and torture for such an ‘offense.’"

The King looked out into the gallery and inquired as to whether anyone else had anything to say before judgment was entered. The man looked to the front row where his parents sat. He hoped that his father would stand and tell the King that punishing a man so severally for being honest about something he could not control was unjust and entreat the King to set his son free. The father stood. But he did not address the King. Instead, he turned to his son and said:
"My son, you must not persist in your evil. You must bow before this our King and repent of your evil and beg him to forgive you of your refusal to see colors. He is a just and merciful King. He does not wish to imprison you or to have your eyes poked with needles daily. But he, being just, has no choice if you insist on saying that you cannot see color."

Then the father turned to King and said:

"O king, you are a just and wonderful King. Your laws and your judgments are just and righteous. And I know that my son has brought this upon himself by refusing to see color as you have commanded. But please, O King, give him one more chance to renounce his refusal to see color."

The King turned to the man in the dock. "Your father’s defense has earned you one more chance. Will you bow before me and ask my forgiveness for failing to see color as I have decreed?"

"Your majesty, I could say what you want me to say but it would not be truth. The truth is I cannot see color."

The King then pronounced the man guilty and sentenced him to life imprisonment and daily eye poking. The father, though wearing a sad affect, declared that the King’s judgement was just and right. As the son was led off by the guards, the King and the father retired to the grand ballroom of the palace to celebrate the King’s rule. As the son screamed in agony as needles were driven into his eyes, the father dined with the King and joined in praising the King for being so wonderful and loving and just.

Can some christian parent out there explain to me how you can even contemplate going to heaven and praising your god after he sentences your children to eternal punishment for the sole sin of being unable to believe?

Hello Blogshpere

For 45 years I was inside a fundigelical cult known as The Church of the Nazarene. I am embarrassed to say that it took me that long to realize that it was all built on an intellectual vacuum and emotional manipulation -- especially fear. Fear is a funny thing. It morphs. If it always manifested itself as recognizable fear, it might be easier to see and deal with more efficiently. But it disguises itself as many other things. Worse, it can protects itself by taking control of the intellect and cranking out what seem like logical, intellectual reasons to behave as the fear dictates. The power of instilling fear of a mind reading, rage-aholic sky pixie and the threat of an eternity in hell for pissing him off over the slightest thing is stupendous and breaking free from it is very hard.

But I made it! I am finally free. I no longer feel even the slightest pangs of fear of the monstrous totalitarian sky pixie and his fiery dungeon.

I intend to use this blog to discuss religion -- particularly christianity and the bible -- and current events related to religion and the separation of church and state. Sometimes seriously. Sometimes ranting. Sometimes sarcastically and with ridicule.