Does the presence of contradictions in the Bible mean the whole thing is wrong?

atheistandagnostic:

Another phenomenal post by our president, Christjahn Beck.

Originally posted on Christjahn:

bc_2http://www.project-reason.org/bibleContra_big.pdf

“Id be curious to see what you think about the following. A common argument against Christianity is pointing out contradicting scripture and/or other sources or schools of belief. A leap is then made to say that due to those contradictions it all must be false.”

Today I’m going to answer a question from a friend that I have known for many years.  We met when he was a member of the church that my parents we co-pastors at, and we used to hang out after worship services all the time.  I know him to be an intelligent, reasonable, and respectful person, and though we now disagree on matters of faith I am going to do my best to address his question thoughtfully.  I fully realize that some of what I have to say on this topic will offend people, and  given the subject matter this is essentially unavoidable.  I…

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Christjahn’s blog. Is Atheism a religion?

atheistandagnostic:

Here’s a post from our president’s new personal blog. Check it out!

Originally posted on Christjahn:

images

“All you have done is turned atheism into a religion…”

This is something that I have had many MANY people say to me.  Every thursday I set up an Ask An Atheist booth on campus at Iowa State University, and one of the most common things that people say to us is some version of this comment/question. That said, it is probably a good first question for this blog.  Welcome once again by the way…

Let’s start with some context.

re·li·gion

nounri-ˈli-jən

: the belief in a god or in a group of gods

: an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods

: an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group

So, there we have the Merriam-Webster definition of religion.  I am not going to address the first two…

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Answers for the Creationist

Hey Everyone! You may have been out of campus today and seen that traveling preacher Tom Short was back, along with his many large signs and large volume of Mountain Dew. He had a new hair color but we had a new sign, so it was only fair. We got a quick tabling event going, and he’s coming by again on Thursday, during our regular Ask an Atheist time.

A lot of people coming by ask us why we set up across from traveling preachers. The answer is quite simply that it is one of our best times for recruitment in the club, and nothing fosters discussion between Christians and Atheists better than talking about a more extreme or conservative type of Christian, in to which category Mr. Short falls for most people. It’s also great for our image when we look for polite discussion opposite a veritable word-storm of harsh opinion.

During the event today, I decided to take up the challenge of responding to one of the posters Mr. Short travels with. When he sets up, I frequently think that many people have answers to the “Questions for the Evolutionist” poster. Unfortunately, due to the one sided nature of preaching, these answers probably don’t get through. For this reason, I wrote out my answers, giving each consideration as to the most useful approach to the question. I am quite certain that my responses will do nothing for Mr. Short, but I wish to make this exercise available to all you who come by the blog, from any perspective on the questions of your own, and put my thoughts out there so that perhaps someone will hear an explanation they may not have heard before.

I do wonder why anyone started using the term “Evolutionist”. I think it’s a bit silly, as those who accept evolution don’t really model their lives or beliefs around it as Creationists do. I think the term is a representation of a misunderstanding of what it means to accept evolution, which is just that, accepting the most plausible theory available. I have attempted to copy the questions down word for word from the poster, but the picture I took of it today was unfortunately a bit blurry and the top was cropped short, so I have done my best to get them right. Also here are my exact responses as I gave to Mr. Short, copied off pictures I took of the papers. There is a line in my last answer I lost in my picture taking, so I have replaced the lost words to the best of my memory in brackets.

isuaas

Do you believe there is a source to the order in the Universe? If not, do you think Chaos+Time=Order?

No, I do not believe there is “a source” to the order in the universe, as far as any single source. I have an inclination that the attribution of the term “source” is somewhat faulted in that it implies a reason, which I do not think there is either. And no, chaos given time does not lead to order.
Interesting to consider, though, is that more ordered arrangements can arise from input of energy. Consider ATP synthesis, in which the high stored energy of a phosphate-phosphate bond can be produced, but only by pairing with an energetically favorable reaction (Na+ entering the cell, which has lower Na+ content than the surroundings. Diffusion requires no energy.
Consider also that the earth is not a closed system. Though a lot of the Sun’s radiation (a type of energy) is reflected off the earth, some of this is harnessed, inputting energy into the system to couple to the otherwise unfavorable production of sugars in chloroplasts.

Do you believe complex design in nature came about by chance?

I believe the understanding of natural selection as chance is mistaken. It is not chance, for example, that a flatworm with pigmented cells which absorb light energy senses the blocking of light as a potential threat and goes back to the light will avoid predation more often than a worm with less pigmented cells. You may be getting caught up in mutations. For that, perhaps consider that genetics are not purely Mendelian. Many genes affect traits, so a continuous range occurs in a population, not a much or none dichotomy. So a worm with 11 clustered pigmented cells does worse than one with 12, who does worse that the 13. This isn’t chance.

DNA is a language communicating information. Where did that information come from?

It may be worth noting for this question we need to understand what information means. DNA is composed of sequences of “codons” – 3 molecule sequences. Each codon can pair with a matching anticodon, which is attached to an amino acid. Chains of amino acids form proteins, which fold in certain ways based on chemical interactions between the acids. Proteins preform many functions in and between cells, and the compilation of these functions affect organisms.

How do you believe life began?

I think that life isn’t terribly different from “non-life”. Life is just a compilation of chemical reactions, so it arose from chemistry. I think that drawing a line between life and non-life would be very difficult, so beginning would be hard to pick out.
I realize that this answer isn’t very thorough, but many wonderful researchers are engaged in studies to give this very question better and better answers.

What is your evidence that one kind of life has evolved into another?

If by “kind of life” you mean species, I would start with investigating prokaryotes and looking at ‘in-our-lifetime’ speciation of the apple maggot fly.
For more evidence, you can study fossils. Particularly well defined lineages are in temnospondyls (fish–>amphibian) & therapods–>birds. In both lineages, predictions have been made of what trait mixes we expect at given times, & then a similar and fitting example, and even repeat specimens, have been found.
The diversification of bird life and tortoise life (just Galapagos) if Pacific Island chains is also a good place to study.

Mutations decrease useful genetic information. Do you believe that with enough time, this trend is reversed?

This is not true. Mutations are not inherently good or bad. Many are helpful, many are hurtful, many more are inconsequential.

How do you account for the formation of fossils?

Fossils are formed by a process called permineralization. Organic matter (usually with a strong structure) in an anoxic environment, such as buried in sand or mud, with water flow through the sediments’ pores, slowly have their porous space filled with the minerals dissolved in the water. The water can also preferentially dissolve Calcium rich molecules, such as in bone, creating new porosity which can be filled.

When do you think the “missing link” will finally be found?

I think you may be a bit confused. There is no single missing link, and every new species we discover is part of a continuous, branched sequence, the “tree of life”. No species is more important than any other, so calling any one “The missing link” is anthropocentric.

Why are evolutionists so determined to prevent young people from hearing this material?

People who accept evolution are not one united group. There are many Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, &c. persons who accept evolution and are eager to share their religious beliefs
A small group of atheists, some of whom, or I’d rather wager most, accept evolution, & are obtuse towards religious persons. I don’t know whether they would be opposed to their children being exposed to religion.
I’m an evolutionary biologist and a paleontologist. I’m also an agnostic atheist. I do not have children, but when I do someday I do not wish to shield them from any perspective on the world. I wish to let them know what as many varieties of people think about the world as possible. I did not like religion myself, and it was a wild agent in making me feel bad as a child. I do want to protect any children I may someday have from hurt. I do not want anyone to try to define my children as good or bad by any quality besides their choices and actions. It is possible that things [I believe to be good or bad, they may disagree with, and consider something different. I wish to do my best] to present, in all possible cases, my thoughts as far as reasons for a conclusion, but never push my conclusions. I wish for my some-day children to have the option to believe or reject any opinion, I wish for them to have the least biased possible background to work from when they decide to tackle questions we cannot answer without opinion.
So, I can not speak for everyone on this count, but I do not know anyone who, based on their acceptance of evolution, is set on influencing their children in any way towards or against religion.

First Meeting : Great Success

Hello All! The Atheist and Agnostic Society at ISU just had it’s first discussion meeting of the semester tonight and it went phenomenally! We had 51 attendees, filling up our reserved room, and got to hear input in our discussion from many people, first timers and returning members alike. 

It is SO exciting to see the secular community really turn out, and so many people interested in discussions and our community. If tonight is indicative of what our year is going to be like, it is going to be an amazing and incredible year. 

News for the blog, it looks like we’ll be having some new contributors, interested new members of the club. We look forward to their thoughts on all things secular in the coming months. 

In short: Great success!

Jesus Camp and Me

This year I will be turning twenty years old. A decade ago, half my life ago, I attended a camp called Camp Geneva in Holland, Michigan. This was not an evangelical camp, it was defined only as a ‘Christian Camp’, and indicated no denomination. I was lucky not to be brought up in a more disturbing form of Christianity, as my parents are Lutheran and Catholic (as they would describe it, the only difference is whether communion is symbolic or literal). Other than that, Catholicism is more ritualized and formal, Lutherans eat a larger variety of food after church, and so forth, both pretty chill.

The children in that film, “Jesus Camp”, are within just a few years of my age. They are brought up in a Christianity I would never describe as chill or calm. One of the focus children, Levi, is the same age as me. Some of these children are growing up taught to ignore the world around them for the sake of making it to an unobserved world besides this. Like misguided intergalactic salesmen they grow up trying to sign people’s lives into the cost of a ticket to a world no one has ever seen. These children experience a camp at which they cry every night and are told how flawed they are, for what they may not even know. These children are manipulated to ‘speak in tongues’, pound the ground, and move violently to impulses. They are told what to think about things entirely outside of their church and encouraged to have their lives overpowered by the one force of this mass of humans and pressures.

However, this camp experience, though mostly a recreational time, had some aspects which stick out chillingly from the background of archery attempts, capture the flag, and camp store ice cream. No worries, no one there spoke in tongues as they did in the film, nor did anyone fall on their knees and cry from what I can remember. But there were skits and talks on stage every evening and one of them I remember still as it caused me more trauma than just about any other experience I had in the churches and church functions I attended in childhood.  For this reason it’s a story I tell often when the subjects of indoctrination and fear arise.

One night we sat in our seats in the darkened auditorium/chapel late after dinner. On the stage were three yardsticks laid end to end. The speaker started to describe to us the scene. The yardsticks showed a lifetime and on the left a man in a red body suit and velvet horns took the stage. To the right, one in sandals and a white robe. As different councilors of ours entered, they walked downstage on the line of the yardsticks with the two men heckling them for attention. The speaker described the personal struggles of each character.

When a walker took the hand of the red velvet man, he lead them a few gentle steps from the yardstick while the robed fellow made anguished faces and grasped across the line for them until they were thrown violently to the ground where they lay. On the Jesus side of the sticks, the person would be lead to the back and side and helped into a kneeling prayer position. The devil would throw up his hands in frustration. All of this well and good, I contemplated how much more comfortable the people playing sinners must have been, not having to kneel.

The last walker turned back and forth between the two sides, inching slowly along the line. He reached the end of the line and stood, looking out for a moment. He turned left and right and decided to face to the Jesus side. ‘Oh good,’ we all thought, ‘no one else thrown to the ground.’ But the speaker informed us this was not so. The walker had run out of time, he said, and, though the walker faced the robed man, the scarlet clad actor grabbed him from behind and flung him brutally down onto the stage. The speaker told us how he’d waited too long to decide, and was cast down.

I have a few big problems with this. One, I simply don’t believe ‘educating’ children based on fear is proper. Children should be nurtured, not emotionally tortured and told they are individually worthless and only achieve worth through adopting given dogmas. Children should not be told their lives mean so little and there is something bigger than life. Children should be nurtured and taught what can be known with evidence, not what is assumed due to tradition. Two, the time-line was scrunched up and jumbled by the statements of the speaker that you could die that very night and, if you did, where would you be? These children have been told of their inherent undeservedness of a good end for ten to twelve years. These children have been told that you’re sinning even if you don’t know it. My prayers as a child only taught me to apologize and resign to waiting for things instead of trying for what I wanted. I apologized every night to some horrible figure who wanted me to be sorrowful for what I didn’t know I had done, but must certainly have done, due to my inherent flaws. I do not think it’s a healthy relationship to lay in bed apologizing and then feel so unsafe one is compelled to pretend to fall asleep so that the figure is still paying attention to them. I did this near every night. I was terrified as a child of dying and so I’d pray I wouldn’t die during the night and, just in case, pretend to fall asleep without ‘hanging up’ with a sign of the cross. No Amens for me as a child, it was ‘please don’t let me die tonight’ ‘please don’t have me die tonight’ and ‘I’ll go to sleep while you’re still watching close, just in case.’

Imagine this, if you would, as a human romantic relationship. What would you tell me, the young woman who I am, if I told you that every night I came home to my angry boyfriend, not sure what was wrong but knowing it must have been something I had done? If I told you that I would quietly whisper apologies into his ear and then ask him not to hurt me for it, not to let anyone hurt me, and accepted him as the protection I had against ills and fell asleep in his arms, gently squeezing to remind myself he was protecting me. If he never told me what was wrong but there was always something, would you tell me I should be apologizing? Would you tell me it was healthy to fall asleep in his arms and feel that he, my fear, was my safety? It doesn’t sound healthy to me.

I still apologize for nearly anything, though I’m getting better at it. I learned from my Christian upbringing to feel truly and deeply miserable whenever anyone is upset around me, and to accept that I’m not doing anything to help and, even if I want to help, am probably making it worse. Just as miserable as if I have really done something bad. I am very quick to apologize when I have done something bad. I learned how faulted I necessarily was, being human, in this way. And that is a grossly inappropriate thing to do to a child. Children should be taught to be accountable for what they have and have not done. Children should be proud of their strengths and unashamed of their flaws. Children’s flaws should not be exaggerated.

Burwell v Hobby Lobby Stores

Legal Adviser for this post: Christjahn. Who Googled all the things I wanted to double-check and laughed when I drafted in strict judgments before I took them back out.

________________________________

By this point, we’ve probably all heard about the ruling of 30 June 2014, that “closely held” companies have some freedom to deny  insurance coverage of health care to their employees due to the religious beliefs of the company’s owner(s) superimposed upon the company as a whole.

It would probably be helpful to define what a “closely held” company really is:
Closely HeldOwned by the founder(s) of the company (meaning they have over 50% of the stocks in the company. These stocks are limited in number so that you can only get the majority of them by someone else selling their share to you.)
(Cornell Law School Definition)
OR
The majority of the stocks are owned by less than five individuals (IRS definition)

So the definitions disagree somewhat, which is bothersome, but ultimately nothing employee owned or owned in a big spread out stock way gets to be “closely held,” so this couldn’t be applied by HyVee, for example. This privilege was granted under the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (1993), which only occurs when the behavior of the religious person is not strictly illegal (see Employment Division v. Smith). [This act eerily instituted after marital rape became illegal, despite large religious protest…. twilight zone music and affirmation that this is, indeed, a joke].

The interesting things in this case are, however, not the legal definitions and precedent acts leading to the decision. More intriguing are the religious values of the corporation in stock investments, the medical science viability required to pass a ruling on medical exemptions, what kinds of things could be exempt from coverage by other religious groups, and the granting of person-hood to corporations.

 

As to the religious values of Hobby Lobby when applied to profits from their investments, I recommend this article by Forbes’ contributor, Rick Ungar (click the underlined words for the article). He does not hold back with his opinions, something for which I admire his writing but I will warn that if you are easily offended and deny the purportedly hypocritical actions of Hobby Lobby owners, you likely won’t enjoy the read. In short, just after starting their case which ended at the end of this June, the company added substantial stocks to its portfolios in companies who produce IUDs, “Plan-B” contraception, and drugs for abortions. One can easily see how, as almost all other companies are required to cover these services in their insurance, this could be a very successful stock. But, wouldn’t someone morally opposed to paying for contraception also be morally opposed to profiting from its sale?

Hobby Lobby has avoided covering two types IUDs and any “Plan B” / “Morning After” pills which prevent implantation of a zygote into the uterine lining (all that bloody nutritious tissue that females shed on a lunar cycle) because they claim that this is a type of abortion. However, they are not morally opposed to preemptive birth controls which thicken cervical mucus to make the passage harder for spermatozoa and thin the uterine lining to prevent implantation of a zygote into the uterine lining (all that . . . wait. I’ve said this before. Oh, this is silly, it would seem that the things they are morally opposed to and the things they are not morally opposed to do the same thing. Well, that’s funny. So, the pre-sex-ed understanding of ‘where babies come from’ by corporate officials is more important in law than medical understanding. Okay, now it all makes sense. Silly me, do disregard all of that, I was obviously too confident in Supreme Court official’s value of science over opinions.

What else could be exempt by this ruling, besides birth control? Well, not blood transfusions. Jehovah’s Witnesses are morally opposed to blood transfusions but they’ve decided that these exemptions are not to effect people’s health in extreme things like cases of blood needed, but in tiny little non-life-effecting things like pregnancy, it’s okay. So the supreme court gets to decide which religiously determined medical morals are valid and which are silly. Perfect, so that’s all taken care of.

I will now admit that I am a scientist, not a lawyer or professional philosopher, so I will not delve into the latest of the stated points deeply. However, one has probably gathered that I would prefer to grant person-hood to entities with united conscious abilities (though I’m sure individuals with DID would make this definition problematic and more philosophical decisions on what it is to be a person would have to be discussed and then invoked) and not gatherings of individuals. The question is raised, can a person be composed of a multitude of persons? If so, which is more of a person, the collective or the individual?

Why Are Atheists So Angry – Book Review

I have recently read a book by a prominent atheist blogger and now must blog it, for circular happenstances’ sake, if naught else. The book is Why are You Atheists So Angry?: 99 things that piss off the godless, by Greta Christina. I’m sorry that I can’t underline that, I only have italicizing and bold capacities. The book is a look at the problems that religion bring up in a society. For to start, there is a list of ninety-nine terrible things to infuriate the reader, from the subjugation of women in religions to deaths by preventable diseases in faith healing cases and all sorts of similar things.

Christina continues to discuss why she believes various forms of religious and spiritual belief are included in the problematic grouping, beyond the strictest and most oppressive groups around. She speaks about moderate religion, progressive religion, the groups who try to accept all religions as part of one big set of ideas on the god(s) they believe in, and various spiritualists, including all of them in the problem group primarily for the reason that unjustified faiths and beliefs make a person more and more willing to accept what people tell them without question.

This volume is a quick read and, though certainly one that will make you angry, it presents concisely a lot of the objections and criticisms to/of religion one hears from the secular side. For religious readers, it presents a good set of thoughts on why people from ‘moderate’ or unorganized groups ought to consider their thoughts on exemption from the harmful group which they may perceive they deserve. For atheists, it wraps up with a large set of resources as well as providing tips on talking to religious folks and what to or not to expect from these discussions.

Greta Christina visited Iowa State this past semester, and, though she has a talk by the same title as this book, she discussed What the Atheist Movement can learn from the LGBT movement. I would recommend attending a talk if one occurs near you, and the book is worth the read.