william lane craig: more of a douchebag than previously expected

If you must describe what it is you do as “apologetics” that’s a clear indication that something’s already gone very wrong. If you make a living making excuses for the inexcusable, nothing good is going to come of it. For example, today on Alternet, Greta Christina quotes WLC‘s recent justification of the genocide and infanticide ordered by God against the Canaanites in the Old Testament:

God had morally sufficient reasons for His judgement upon Canaan, and Israel was merely the instrument of His justice, just as centuries later God would use the pagan nations of Assyria and Babylon to judge Israel. Moreover, if we believe, as I do, that God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation. We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy. Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives. So whom does God wrong in commanding the destruction of the Canaanites? Not the Canaanite adults, for they were corrupt and deserving of judgement. Not the children, for they inherit eternal life.

As reprehensible as that is, as an argument it does have some merit. It clearly sets out a compelling narrative one might follow on the path to atheism, through the desire to distance oneself from such evil.

My first response upon reading this was, “I wonder what Dr. Craig’s stance is on women’s reproductive rights?” A quick Google search revealed his opinions on the subject:

Now what that implies is that if the developing fetus is a human being, then he or she is endowed with intrinsic moral worth and therefore possesses inherent human rights, including the right to life. Abortion would be a form of homicide, and against such attacks the innocent and defenseless fetus would have every right to the protection of the law.
So we come to the second question we must address: Is the developing fetus a human being? Here it seems to me that it is virtually undeniable scientifically and medically that the fetus is at every stage of its development a human being. After all, the fetus is not canine, or feline, or bovine; it is a human fetus. From the moment of conception on, there exists a living organism which is a genetically complete human being and which, if left to develop naturally, will grow into an adult member of its species.

So there you have it: it’s ok to murder innocent children (who are already born) if your god tells you to, because they will go to heaven. Also, the mere existence of the potential that human life might develop is sacred, and deserves legal rights.

How Dr. Craig can live with himself, with that kind of cognitive dissonance, is utterly and completely beyond me.

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the tyranny of satan

I rarely listen to the radio anymore, my presets had disappeared, and I couldn’t remember which stations they were, so I was hitting the scan button. “… to escape the tyranny of satan” caught my attention, and I stopped. The commentators were discussing a mass exodus from a faith whose tenets included the belief that all disease and hardship came from satan, and that if you were sick or unfortunate, that you had done something to deserve it. Parishioners would have anxiety attacks whenever something went wrong, afraid to tell anyone for fear they’d be thought of as sinful. Conversely, they also believed that when their pastor had a heart attack at the pulpit and dropped dead right there, that satan had taken him because he was too good. Fortunately for these terrified souls, it’s apparently perfectly acceptable to decide one’s current faith is too stressful and seek out a congregation that interprets the same words from the same god in different ways, so, they did.

Up until this point, it wasn’t really clear that the men speaking were pro-religion at all — in fact it sounded like they were describing the reasons religion is just a really, really bad idea. But then the conversation turned to the glorious, unquestionable perfection of their kindler, gentler version of the almighty. For some reason (remember, these are the free-of-satan’s-tyranny folks), this alleged love was exemplified by none other than Job. They talked about how their sweet lord dished it out and good old Job took it, then chuckled ruefully about Job’s folly when he finally broke down and questioned why god had murdered his children, destroyed his home, and left him destitute. They smugly related how their awesome god put that arrogant so-and-so Job in his place, and how Job finally apologized for his inappropriate outburst of … utter normalcy. And they were completely in favor of all of this (except maybe the normal bit).

They went on — yes, I was still listening, gripped by a horrified fascination as they mused what a great (albeit unknowable) planner that their god was, which led them to the story of a three year old girl in their church who had died recently after three rounds of chemotherapy, and how the mother wrote a lovely tribute … I don’t know how to put this delicately … thanking her god for giving them three years with this child who lived in almost constant pain and medical torture, and for taking her home where she wouldn’t get poked anymore — at which point I may have snapped a little and yell/asked the radio why in the hell would she even think that? If his “gifts” include babies whose lives are so brutal that their short duration is actually a blessing, who’s to say it’s not just a giant poke-fest up there in the clouds?

Even though by this time I knew they were actually preaching *in favor* of religion, and that they were speaking from the perspective of a church where people from *worse* churches came for refuge, the whole show could just as easily been an atheist object lesson on the evils of religious nonsense. Only nonsense is too nice a word; yes, it made no sense, but there was a darker side of it, a deeper evil. The framers of the Judeo-Christian mythology created a system which terrorizes its victims with nothing more than the ordinary ordeals of life, and then cunningly twists it so the injured, the devastated, the bereaved are compelled to pen heartfelt thank-you notes for innocent children’s horrible deaths.

At some point I reached out and smacked the radio button to shut it up.

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objects in reflective surfaces are usually you

One of my favorite blogs, Infidel753, has written a scathing rebuttal to the progressive Christian claim that Jesus overruled the Old Testament evils and replaced them with a kindler, gentler form of spiritual law, citing Matthew 5:17-19 and explaining:  (Emphasis added is mine)

All the laws of the Old Testament remain in full force and will continue to be so for as long as the Earth itself exists. If you are a liberal Christian and you claim that Christian morality does not require enforcing Leviticus 20:13 and executing every man who has ever committed a homosexual act, Jesus Christ himself says that you are wrong and that Fred Phelps (“whosoever shall do, and teach them”) is right.

Anyone who still thinks that Jesus changed everything should have a look at this 94 page PDF documenting instances of God’s hate (but use eye protection, for it is an abomination against the eyeballs). Sure, things got a little less genocidey after Jesus showed up, but it was still far from lovey-dovey.

So, let’s review: the Bible is the holy book of the Christian faith, and the only widely accepted source of their God’s teachings. The Bible is full of cruelty, violence, injustice, intolerance, and inconsistencies; it is, as Infidel753 describes it, a book of evil, and (if it were true) describes the activities of a deeply evil being, consumed by jealousy and prone to commit acts of unspeakable horror on a whim. Trying to defend this entity’s actions by citing examples where his capriciousness was inclined toward the generous side is like trying to defend a serial killer because he had an excellent driving record and supported his local PBS station.

So if you’re following a religion that is based on this book, but you are a good person, you are good in spite of it, not because of it. But, if you are not following the book, what is your religion, exactly? The god you know in your heart, based on the optimistic and selective interpretation of this book by good-hearted spiritual leaders? Well, then you’ve made up your own religion, and should probably think up another name for it, because when you identify as a member of a religion based on the teachings in the Bible, you align yourselves with Fred Phelps (remember, he’s right — Jesus said so.)

… i digress

About twenty years ago, I spent almost three years in NA, which is a cult, but that’s another rant entirely. The first thing you are required to do in that program is admit that you’re completely helpless and incurably ill, after which you must come to believe that only a Power greater than yourself can help you. If you are unable to choose any recognized deity, they will tell you to pick anything – the doorknob, the toaster, anything. And what is the point of that, one wonders? I would try to make a clever observation about how one’s reflection in the usually shiny surfaces of both those things is still you, it’s just distorted to the point of being nearly unrecognizable, but I feel like that would be pushing it. My point is, it doesn’t matter what you call what you believe in, it’s still just you looking back at you. If you are a genocidal asshole, you’ll see Fred Phelps’ version of a hateful and sadistic psychopath. If you’re a good and decent person, you’ll see a kindly long-haired hippie roaming the countryside feeding the hungry and healing the leopards. What you see in that entity you believe created you in his image is just you.

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inhuman nature

On Beliefnet, Rod Dreher offers a study in contradictions, starting with the title: Atheism and our inhuman nature. If human nature has a tendency towards evil, then evil isn’t inhuman, is it?

Then, as part of his argument for the necessity of religion, he cites atrocities in the Congo, then states:

This is not a matter of religion, or no religion. This is a matter of human nature, and what human beings are capable of absent civilized restraints. If you think people are bad with God, just imagine what they’re capable of without Him. I finished the Kristof column and thought to myself, “How is it that people still believe in the basic goodness of man?”

So if this is not a matter of religion or no religion, why, exactly, would religion help? In places like the Congo, or Rwanda, or any of the other places horrific things take place on a massive scale, are we to believe that by introducing (presumably) Christian morals, the rape, torture, and genocide would magically go away? This is a bit like shipping solar-powered bibles to earthquake victims who are starving and dying from lack of the most basic supplies – ignoring the overwhelming *real* needs in favor of imaginary ones. Not to mention completely overlooking the unspeakable persecutions currently being inflicted on gays in Uganda by a government heavily influenced by “The Family.”

But that’s not a contradiction, it’s just stupid. This is a contradiction:

And I believe having God — in the sense of professing belief in Him — is not enough to prevent individuals and sometimes entire societies from turning to evil (I think from time to time of a story I told here about Serbian butchers — Orthodox Christians, presumably — massacring innocent Bosnian Muslims; it was related to me by my friend Rich, who was haunted by the black mold on the wall of the warehouse, feeding on the bodily fluids of the murdered men). But if we are to be good, God must be present, and present in a real way in our hearts, such that His laws are binding on our conduct.

The cognitive dissonance is absolutely deafening. It’s like there’s an invisible 11th commandment, “Thou shalt disagree with thine own self.” Or maybe “Thou shalt not make any fucking sense at all, for the sensemakers are an abomination unto the Lord your God.”

In other news, Religious belief is likely a by-product of human moral reasoning, suggest psychologists.

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fundamental illness

Look carefully at the image below, taken in Maine on election night in 2009. The people on the right are rejoicing upon learning that they have succeeded in passing a law that denies marriage rights to gay couples. The people on the right consider themselves to be godly, moral, and superior to the people on the left. The people on the right have absolutely no concept of the harm they have inflicted, or they pain they have caused. It does not occur to them that there is anything wrong with taking civil rights away from others. I am not a psychologist, but I can tell you without any hesitation that the people on the right are, in clinical terms, fucked up in the head.

There is something fundamentally wrong with the people on the right.

Yesterday I read three separate posts which touched on the psychological (and in some cases psychiatric) issues of religion:

  • Facebook Fundies: Gettin’ Crunk with the Lord, about groups of believers who like to work themselves up into a religious hysteria
  • Religion and Psychology, which explores the underlying cognitive biases that contribute to religiosity such as confirmation bias which plays a strong role in religious belief.
  • Solar Powered Bibles for Haiti: Why Some Christians Feel Compelled to Exploit Disaster**, in which a psychologist explains the underlying issues that would cause people to send bibles in the place of anesthetics for amputations or antibiotics for horrific infections: “First, it can diminish empathy by downplaying the importance of here and now suffering. Second it can make something other than a person’s apparent needs (like food or anesthetics) seem critically important. Third, it can re-direct our mother-bear instincts away from protecting vulnerable individuals and toward protecting the ideology itself. Believers may come to feel more protective of their religion than they are of actual human beings.”

And let’s not forget this guy, whose imaginary friend told him to go shoot a guy in the head in church, or the people who consider him a hero, or any of the other  rhetorical extremists, predatory sociopaths whose message *sounds* completely whackadoodledoo, and is often dismissed as such, but it’s a message calculated to reach a very, very small demographic — like a dog whistle for psychotics. For example:

These people get their morals from god. (image byk763)
This all makes perfect sense to the heavily armed batshit asshole demographic. (image by k763)

The fundamentally ill do not always present with such exaggerated symptoms, of course. And not all of them choose to use the faithful as their minions, but more and more these days they are the primary target market of anyone seeking to impose an economic or social agenda that runs contrary to the good of the many in favor of the good of the few.

The people who keep track of such things estimate that psychopaths make up 1% of the population, but they tend to wield a great deal of influence over the easily led, since they are master manipulators. Whether they occupy positions within in the evangelical community or simply pull the strings from outside, they exert tremendous influence.

“Faith presupposes that we cannot know. We can never know. Those who claim to know what life means play God. These false prophets—the Pat Robertsons, the Jerry Falwells and the James Dobsons—clutching the cross and the Bible, offer, like Mephistopheles, to lead us back to a mythical paradise and an impossible, unachievable happiness and security, at once seductive and empowering. They ask us to hand over moral choice and responsibility to them. They will tell us they know what is right and wrong in the eyes of God. They tell us how to act, how to live, and in this process they elevate themselves above us. They remove the anxiety of moral choice, the fundamental anxiety of human existence.” — Chris Hedges

To be continued, maybe…

**NOTE: representatives of the electric bible-bringers have responded with reassurances that the bibles are not being transported instead of life-saving supplies, but rather “piggybacking on existing shipments, if there is extra space”.  However, the group doing the sending has an ongoing campaign in Haiti to convert Catholics to Evangelical Christianity, and you’d kind of hope that, in times of crisis, they’d set that aside and just help people, but that’s not how it works.

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far-right subversives: Frank Schaeffer was absolutely right.

I wish I could say the title says it all, but no, it doesn’t. It’s actually far worse than just Multiculturalism is Societal AIDS.

Paul put it this way, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate.” The idea that we are all the same and that all cultures are equal is folly. This “Cultural Marxism,” dressed up as “multiculturalism” has destroyed this nation. It is the AIDS virus of American society.

All societies and all beliefs are not equal and not all behavior is appropriate.

It goes on, and on, espousing the true Christian values of xenophobia, hatred, and intolerance:

Instead of guns and bombs the weapon Communism’s foot-soldiers have chosen to employ are words. Their stealth attack has come under the guise of tolerance, social justice, economic justice, peace, reproductive rights, sex education and safe sex, safe schools, inclusion, diversity, and sensitivity.

Permit me to say it again. Multiculturalism is the AIDS virus of America’s Christian culture. Let there be no mistake, America is a Christian culture despite what the homo-culturalists want you to believe.

And it goes on, celebrating the glories of unfairness and inequality. Wasn’t it Jesus who said, wealth and whiteness are next to godliness?

The educational syndicate values “fairness” above truth. Homosexuals deserve to marry because to deprive them of the “right” would not be “fair.” Having too much money would not be “fair” to the poor. Profiling “terrorists” would not be “fair.” Meanwhile, our “fairness” has cost the rest of us our liberty.

He then goes on to advocate leaving mainstream churches, isolating children at home and indoctrinating them.

I remember reading Frank Schaeffer’s post about far-right subversives and agreeing, but deep inside, thinking (hoping?) he was maybe overstating the case for effect.

He wasn’t.

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