Fascination with Facts

I am reading Breaking the Spell, by Daniel C. Dennett.  I’m about half way through the book and it has been a good read so far.  Dennett is a philosopher.  The philosophy of science is one of his specialties.   The book deals with the origins of religion as a natural phenomenon.

I wanted to take a moment to share a fact that came up early in the book that I find especially fascinating.  Dennett quotes some research, stating, “Your body is composed of perhaps a hundred trillion cells, and nine out of ten of them are not human cells!”  p. 86.

The research he quotes is from Hooper, Lora V., Lynn Bry, Per G. Falk, and Jeffrey I. Gordon, 1998, “Host-Microbial Symbiosis in the Mammalian Intestine: Exploring an Internal Ecosystem.”  Bio Essays, vol. 20, no. 4, pp. 336-43.

May 26, 2009 at 1:47 am Leave a comment

Bible Contradicts Christian Theology

A central tenet of Christian theology is that everyone is a sinner.  Romans 3:23 says, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”.  Romans then says in 6:23 that “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  So, in a nutshell, since we are all sinners we are all going to die.  But, the believers will enjoy eternal life.

Against this we have the stories of Enoch and Elijah.  Enoch was the son of Cain, the grandson of Adam.  Enoch did not die.  Genesis 5:24 tells us that “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.”  Elijah was a prophet.  He, too, did not die.  Second Kings 2:11 tells us that while Elijah was walking with Elisha, “…suddenly a chariot of  fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.”  So both Enoch and Elijah were spared death because they found favor with God.

Were Enoch and Elijah sinners?  If so, then we have two men who sinned and did not die, contradicting Romans 6:23.  Therefore, Christ is not the only path to heaven.  Or, is it possible that one or both of these men were without sin?  That would clearly contradict Romans 3:23.

How do we square the accounts of these two men with the book of Romans?  We can’t.  Either Christian theology is wrong, or the book on which it is based is flawed.  There are no two ways about it.

April 3, 2009 at 1:06 pm 15 comments

The United States is not the Land of the Free

I came across a story today stating that one in every thirty-one adults in the U.S. is in the corrections system.  This is the highest rate in the world.  This makes a lie of the often heard claim that the United States is the most free country in the world.  If we are so free, why are so many of us locked up?

Of course, not everyone involved in the corrections system is locked up.  Many are on parole or on probation.  However, according to the Department of Justice, the “United States has the highest incarceration rate and the biggest prison population of any country in the world.”

Consider that for a moment.  Americans often believe China to be less free than the U.S.  It is communist, after all.  But, if China has  four times as many people as we do, but we have more people in our jails than they do, we aren’t exactly a free country.

Some might claim that these statistics don’t show us to be less free.  They might argue that we have a larger criminal element in our society.  I don’t buy that.   That would imply that Americans are grossly less ethical or less moral than the rest of the world by a large factor.  It would be difficult to accept given our large immigrant population.  Do people immigrate here to embark on a life of crime?

The statistics also show that “[t]he numbers are also concentrated among groups, with a little more than 9 percent of black adults in prisons or jails or on probation or parole, as opposed to some 4 percent of Hispanics and 2 percent of whites.”   The population of the U.S. by race is the reverse order of that figure.  Whites make up the largest share of the American population, followed by Hispanics and then blacks.  I find it hard to believe that justice is color-blind, much less blind.

The gist of the article is about the cost of imprisoning so many Americans.  It argues that probation and parole are less costly for non-violent criminals.  And I would agree.  But, the article never questions the basic methods of the U.S. justice system.  And that would be to make so many things illegal.

I would argue that many of the non-violent offenders in the corrections system are there because of drugs.  Instead of making soft drugs, like marijuana, illegal they should be legal but regulated.  We need to stop punishing people for victimless crimes and let people be the victims of their own decisions, instead.  It is a lot less costly, and much easier to manage.

It is often said that with freedom comes responsibility.  The implication is that people who are less responsible will eventually become less free.  But, is it not possible that if we are less free then we eventually become less responsible?

March 3, 2009 at 9:24 am 2 comments

Can Anyone Explain the Holy Trinity?

The christian concept of God as a holy trinity has me baffled.  I get that Jesus can be distinguished from God the Father in that God the Father somehow spawned Jesus, and later was rejoined by Jesus in Heaven just as a computer process can fork another process and later join on it.  But, what distinguishes God the Father from the Holy Spirit?  Can anyone explain that to me?  And I’m not being entirely facetious, either.

In order for there to be a trinity, the Father and the Spirit must be different somehow.  But, what is it that distinguishes them?  What can the Father do that the Spirit cannot, and vica versa?  Does this not mean that they are one and the same?  Maybe the christian god is not a trinity, but a duality.  And if the Father has some ability that the Spirit does not, or if the Spirit has some power that the Father does not, then isn’t one of them less than all-powerful?  Or maybe both of them?

Is it possible that the Christians have misinterpreted their own god?

February 28, 2009 at 11:14 am 17 comments

Why is Belief in Christ Necessary? (part 3)

After my last post, R. Eric Sawyer and Jeremiah both left a number of comments.  In some of the comments they try to attack my conviction that belief in Christ is not necessary by comparing salvation to receiving a million dollars.  They claim that if someone is willing to deposit a million bucks into your bank account you have to allow the person to do so.  Similarly, salvation isn’t just given away to everyone.  They claim you must first acknowledge Christ in order to receive it.

I would counter that if someone wanted to give me a million dollars they would tell me directly.  They might send a registered letter, or at least make a phone call.  They wouldn’t write a cryptic message in a book, hope that I would read it, and ask me to believe that I will eventually receive a million dollars.  If they were sincere and the money was a gift and nothing more they would contact me to make the offer.

In a similar vein, if Christ really was God and needed our belief in order to save us, and if he so loved us that he were willing to die for each and every one of us, then he would make it painfully obvious that his story was true.  He wouldn’t couch his story in a book full of errors and contradictions, accumulated from oral traditions over the course of centuries.  His offer of salvation would come in a manner that could not be disputed.

The fact is, if Christ really were God, and offered salvation in the manner in which Christians claim, then God would be irresponsible.  How many sincere people have died without hearing his message through no fault of their own?  What becomes of these people?  If they go to hell, then they did so needlessly because God could have reached them.  But, if they don’t go to hell, then belief in Christ is not necessary as evidenced by their salvation.

February 5, 2009 at 11:47 am 10 comments

Why is Belief in Christ Necessary? (part 2)

Jeremiah said the following in commenting on my previous post (see comment #10): “The Bible also says For ALL have sinned, and come short of the glory of God(Romans 3:23), and the wages of sin is death(Romans 6:23)(a) but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord(b).”  These are the passages that many Christians use to promote the idea that belief is required for salvation.  I would like to show that this is a big con.

The point of these passages is that since all of us have sinned we are all going to hell.  But, Jesus died on the cross so that we can be saved.  So, if we believe then we are saved.  If we don’t believe we are damned.

This is a lie, however.  Why?  Because if we have all sinned, but only a portion of us are going to hell, then we are not being damned for our sins.  That is simple logic.  Something else must be the determining factor in whether we are saved or not.  That factor turns out to be belief.  Those who believe in Jesus are going to heaven, and those who don’t are going to hell.  So, in Christianity, you are not damned for your sins.  You are damned for your beliefs.

In my previous post, I said that requiring belief seems perverse.  This is why I find it so perverse.  Everyone holds beliefs.  Often, we have good reasons for holding particular beliefs.  Sometimes, we have good reasons for holding incorrect beliefs.  We change our beliefs if we can be shown why the belief is incorrect.  If some beliefs are wrong and God really wanted us not to hold these beliefs, he doesn’t need to threaten us with punishment.  He only needs to appeal to reason.

Anyone who God would hold accountable for his or her beliefs could be presumed to have a mind capable of discerning the truth.  If not, then God is simply immoral in the same way anyone would be immoral for punishing an individual for not performing something of which they are incapable.

I simply cannot accept that God would punish us for not believing in Christ.  The idea is absurd.   If God wanted us to believe in Christ, he would give us better evidence than a book gathering oral traditions from an ancient tribe, authored over the course of centuries and edited by a Church with very political motivations.

January 11, 2009 at 2:42 am 15 comments

Why is Belief in Christ Necessary?

Of the dogmas of Christianity to which I most object is the one that requires belief in order to be saved.  This seems perverse.  God supposedly made himself as man in order to suffer a brutal death for the purpose of saving mankind from the effects of sin.  He did this because he loves us.  However, after suffering and dying he is now going to require us to hold particular beliefs before salvation can be enjoyed?

The problem is that the beliefs cannot be verified.  There is no direct evidence for these beliefs.  It’s all hearsay, and nonsensical, to boot.

It would be one thing if everyone was given evidence for the Jesus story before being asked, “do you believe this?”  It is another to be given no evidence.  The question of whether I believe in Christ as God, and whether I accept his crucifixion for my sins is like asking whether I am willing to lie in order to receive God’s saving grace.

It would be a lie for me to say, “Yes, this all makes sense and I accept God’s sacrifice thankfully.”  The truth is, none of it makes sense.  Is it better for me to lie and be saved or to tell the truth and be damned?  I prefer the truth and I believe God would prefer it that way, too.

January 8, 2009 at 11:00 am 19 comments

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