Thursday, November 20, 2008

Christians must take parts of the old Testemant to be completely literal without exception

So often when I speak with Christians they tell me that they do not believe the Bible to be 100% literal.

I can certainly understand this--how can anyone really believe in a talking snake? But there is one story in particular that every Christian MUST take to be completely true. This story is the tale of Moses and the Ten Commandments.

Christianity hinges on this story. To be a Christian, one must believe that Moses went off on his own, climbed mount Sinai, was greeted by Yahweh in the form of a burning bush, and received the tablets with the 10 commandments written on them. Without this story, there are no laws for humans to break and sin against god. Without these sins there was nothing for Jesus to save humanity from. Thus, this story is the cornerstone to Christianity.

Now I ask this question: If you believe this story, you believe that Moses existed and was in direct contact with Yahweh. Therefore, there can be no reason to doubt any other account of Moses written in the bible. And if those stories are true, how can anyone doubt the other tales within the bible?

These are questions that every person who calls themselves a Christian should ask.

Where is the evidence for life according to the bible?

I ask myself this question regularly.

I say to myself this: If the bible is true and it has all the answers to explain the world, why does everything we examine seem to say the exact opposite?

If the creation story is correct, why do our astrophysicists and astronomers tell us a different tale? Why is it that there is absolutely no evidence for Noah's worldwide flood? After all, we can see a slight change in CO2 in the atmosphere from thousands of years ago. Shouldn't the evidence for a mass extinction be everywhere? If Moses parted the red sea and killed thousands of Egyptians, wouldn't they have mentioned it somewhere in their detailed history? We have no archaeological evidence that the ancient Hebrews were even enslaved there at all.

If Jesus was actually walking on water and raising the dead, wouldn't someone have mentioned him outside of a 3 sentence entry from Josephus?

It seems to me that if any of the religious scriptures were true, we would see the evidence everywhere, but alas, we see the exact opposite.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

We are the singularity

Just a short thought today.

If you take a light bulb and smash it on the ground, what does it become? Does it maintain the essence of a light bulb or does it become something new? When you hold the pieces in your hands, is it not still the light bulb, just into many pieces?

What then are we? When the singularity went boom... what did it become? Are we not still the singularity? Are we not all one thing, just in a different form?

All that exists in this universe is but one thing that appears to be many. The individual self does not exist, nor does living matter differ from inanimate matter.

All differences are merely constructs of our brains and nothing more.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Morality without god?

How can there be moral people without god(s) to tell them what is good and what is evil?

I hear this a question, genuinely asked, by theists to atheists on a regular basis. It is usually presented to stump the atheist but always fall flat for a number of reasons.

First, we know there are atheists who are moral people. Therefore, any attempt to say that one cannot be moral without faith in a religion is absolutely foolish and can immediately be discredited.

Still, it is interesting to really examine why its unnecessary to be religious and do good.

What is good and what is evil?

According to religious dogma, good and evil have been defined by god and revealed through prophets. Thus, human actions are subject to black and right rules of good and evil--wrong and right. In Christianity, the religion with which I am most familiar, morality is usually defined by the Ten Commandments. These were revealed to Moses by Yahweh (in the form of a burning bush).

These are usually seen by Jews and Christians as laws that must be upheld at all times. Thou shall not steal, kill, lie(false witness), honor your parents, be jealous of your neighbor, and commit adultery.

But does upholding those rules no matter what really make sense?

I'm going to ignore the commandments about no other gods and idols, blasphemy, and the Sabbath because they have nothing to do with morals or ethics. They are entirely related to maintaining the integrity of the religion.

I'm also not going to go into every other commandment and dissect them piece by piece. Rather I will simply pose a few questions.

Would it be a sin to kill Hitler to prevent the Holocaust?

Would it be a sin to steal just what is needed from someone has too much, to feed the poor?

Would it be a sin to not honor parents who murder, kill, and steal?

Anyone can see that any set of ultimate rules of morality are inherently flawed. We as individual sentient beings know that we do not live in a world of black and white... we are almost always in grey areas.

I propose that our ideas of good and evil are merely linguist constructions. There is no ultimate good or ultimate evil. Killing/murder can be good, bad, or a little of both.

Good and evil are nothing more than human conceptions. Internally we know that evil or bad is an action that causes harm to someone who does not deserve it. Isn't that how we think? Don't we feel awful when "someone didn't deserve it?"
Good is merely an action that benefits others who deserve it.
Those who deserve it are those who also follow this code.

Einstein's god

Einstein is often used by both believers and non-believers to fortify their own positions. The problem with this is that more often than not, those quoting Einstein do not understand the man's true position on religion and god.

One quote that comes up time and time again is this: "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."

What does it mean?

At first glance it appears that Einstein is suggesting that he is a religious person--religious in the sense that he may believe in one or another of the worlds dogmatic belief systems. But this is not true... not even close.

He was often portrayed as a religious person during his lifetime, much to his dismay. He responded to these claims with this comment:

"It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it." (Albert Einstein, 1954, The Human Side, edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, Princeton University Press)

I think the first quote can only be understood after reading the second, at least without the original contexts.

But... what we can see and quite clearly is that Albert Einstein saw something awesome in the structure of the universe. He spent his entire life studying it, examining the inner workings of our world and was able to see things no person before him had seen. I think it is very clear from the second comment that when he refers to religion or god he is not talking about the god of Abraham or any other commonly worshipped god.

So when I read his first statement, I see him saying that a scientist should approach his/her experiments and observations with an awe for the magnificence of what he/she is studying. When one really thinks about how all that there is in the universe could have originated from a singularity it is stunning. God is the unknown--the perfection--the other that we cannot understand. God is not a being--does not have human emotions--cannot be believed in or not believed in. To Einstein, god simply is. But more importantly, everything that is connected in a very real way.

I don't think of Einstein as a theist or atheist. Those labels are too simplistic and do not do him justice.

Just a few more quotes from Einstein about god and religion.

I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I nor would I want to conceive of an individual that survives his physical death; let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egoism, cherish such thoughts. I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of life and with the awareness and a glimpse of the marvelous structure of the existing world, together with the devoted striving to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the Reason that manifests itself in nature. (Albert Einstein, The World as I See It)

I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own -- a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotisms.(Albert Einstein, Obituary in New York Times, 19 April 1955)

Scientific research is based on the idea that everything that takes place is determined by laws of nature, and therefore this holds for the action of people. For this reason, a research scientist will hardly be inclined to believe that events could be influenced by a prayer, i.e. by a wish addressed to a Supernatural Being.(Albert Einstein, 1936, The Human Side. Responding to a child who wrote and asked if scientists pray.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What was there before the universe began?

One of Einstein's greatest contributions to our knowledge of the world is the understanding that time and space are not separate entities but rather one. We call this timespace.

There is no question that time and space are united. We know this because of the effects of gravity on time. When space is warped by an objects gravity, time is also warped. For instance, the closer to the center of the earth, the faster time goes. This is not theoretical, it can be observed by placing a clock on a satellite.

So, moving back in time, we know that timespace originated with the big bang. Thus the time as we know and understand it did not exist before the big bang and therefore, the idea of what came before the big bang is an invalid question.

A better question is, what else was there before the universe began?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Continuation of the problems of an all knowing god.

I'd like to take my previous thought into a different area.

The idea that god knew all of history before he began creation is certainly a justification for predestination. After all, if a god knows what someone will do -- all decisions, all experiences, etc. -- before they are created, in a sense this god creates them with this purpose.

One may argue against this purpose, or predetermined fate, by saying that free will determines the outcome of our lives, but I do not agree with that statement(at least not completely).

Humans have the ability to make any choice at any time in theory. But, does free will actually exist in practice?

I propose that some decisions are made without the use of will at all. When I see a car coming straight for me on the road, I move away from it without thinking. I merely react without any input from our will.

One may respond to this with the argument that I could have stayed in the path of the car. I could have sat down... etc. But is that true or is there something else going on that influenced my decision? Could there be a mechanism that is capable of overriding "free will"?

When you get angry, do you chose to get angry? When you fall in love, do you chose to fall in love?

As rational thinking beings we must also examine the how our decisions are effected by our environment. Is the child born in Iran whose father is an Islamic leader going to be punished by his creator for taking on those beliefs? Same goes for the child of a Christian Preacher.

The god of Abraham is said to be just. Is it fair to put a person into two completely different environments and expect the same result? To hold them to the same standard?

When we actually examine how our choices are made we see that there are many dynamic systems at work. We build upon our prior knowledge and assessment of the situation but also take into account social pressures.

Sometimes the external factors act like great weights placed upon the back of a person lying prone. They are free to stand up, but some are simply not strong enough.