Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Boy in the Manger

Doctor William Lane Craig has sent a Christmas greeting to atheists, entitled Five Reasons Why God Exists. His friendly message is found here at this link:

 In the spirit of the holidays I send this friendly greeting in return.

Happy Jesus Birthday Dr. Craig. I enjoyed your message and thought I should respond. I believe you raise important points to consider in our labor for peace on earth. Your five reasons follow below indented in italics. My comments appear below each one of them. 
1. God provides the best explanation of the origin of the universe. Given the scientific evidence we have about our universe and its origins, and bolstered by arguments presented by philosophers for centuries, it is highly probable that the universe had an absolute beginning. Since the universe, like everything else, could not have merely popped into being without a cause, there must exist a transcendent reality beyond time and space that brought the universe into existence. This entity must therefore be enormously powerful. Only a transcendent, unembodied mind suitably fits that description.
Without conceding that the requirement for an ‘absolute’ beginning has been proven, we will take it at face value and continue. It is proposed that God provides an explanation for the origin of the universe, and so we read ahead to learn your definition of God. You conclude with "...a transcendent unembodied mind provides the explanation." So, you are defining God as a transcendent, unembodied mind. To understand this, we have to turn to the dictionary:
transcendent: beyond or above the range of normal or merely physical human experience.
unembodied: not having a material body
mind: the element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought
The entity you are proposing to be unembodied is a mind. The first definition of mind would be a contradiction, there being no unembodiment of an entity that is part of (embodied in) another. Therefore you must be referencing the second definition of mind, that of the faculty of consciousness and thought. Consulting the dictionary, we have:
 faculty: an inherent mental or physical power
mental: of or relating to the mind.
You cannot be referencing the first definition of faculty (Mental) because the definition of mental circles back to the word you trying to define (Mind). Therefore, you must be referencing the second definition of faculty, that of physical power. Consulting the dictionary, we have:
physical: of or relating to the body as opposed to the mind; of or relating to things perceived through the senses as opposed to the mind; tangible or concrete.
You cannot be referencing the first or third definition of physical, (related to the body, tangible), because you are proposing the existence of an unembodied mind. Therefore you must be referencing the second definition of physical (things perceived through the senses). But here your argument meets the resolute and final brick wall of the dictionary:
 sense: a faculty by which the body perceives an external stimulus; one of the faculties of sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch.
Your argument has circled into a world of the external stimulus and bodies you are trying to leave behind with ‘transcendent’ and ‘unembodied’ To avoid this circular reasoning, I suggest you adjust the argument to propose a mind that is NOT unembodied, in other words a mind that is embodied in some way, a physical entity.

Your argument should also be held to the following logical restatement: "Since the universe, like everything else, including a physical mind, could not have popped into existence,..." This would require an explanation for the origin of the physical mind.

However, we can for now allow a postulation that a thinking entity, possibly of transcendent (unknown to us) but physical (in some sense) form, was engaged in decisions leading up to the beginning of the universe we see. It does seems to be a gross violation of the principal of Occam’s razor to speculate that a thinking, decision making agent is included in the primordial state. We are however looking for a first cause and, whether proposing thinking or non thinking elements of a first cause, the burden remains on the postulant to outline the evidence for its proposed constitution. Science acknowledges, and any rational theism should as well, that there is a good deal of work ahead of us in this regard.

We are for now postulating a thinking entity. You use the name "God" however that term is already laden with centuries of dogma that has never in fact been supported. We will use the term "prime thinker" instead. We will observe the evidence and determine if this thinker has the characteristics and indeed, the character, described by our ancestors as written in the scriptures.
2. [The prime thinker] provides the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe. Contemporary physics has established that the universe is fine-tuned for the existence of intelligent, interactive life. That is to say, in order for intelligent, interactive life to exist, the fundamental constants and quantities of nature must fall into an incomprehensibly narrow life-permitting range. There are three competing explanations of this remarkable fine-tuning: physical necessity, chance, or design. The first two are highly implausible, given the independence of the fundamental constants and quantities from nature's laws and the desperate maneuvers needed to save the hypothesis of chance. That leaves design as the best explanation.
Above you claim that existence is fine tuned to produce interactive life given that the universe is the term used to label all that exists. You object to what you deem to be an infinitesimal chance of this happening on its own. However, you offer no proof that existence cannot be eternal.  If existence can be eternal, there is no such thing as an infinitesimal chance for any possible physical configuration of existence. It is bound to happen.

3. [The prime thinker] provides the best explanation of objective moral values and duties. Even atheists recognize that some things, for example, the Holocaust, are objectively evil. But if atheism is true, what basis is there for the objectivity of the moral values we affirm? Evolution? Social conditioning? These factors may at best produce in us the subjective feeling that there are objective moral values and duties, but they do nothing to provide a basis for them. If human evolution had taken a different path, a very different set of moral feelings might have evolved. By contrast, [the prime thinker] serves as the paradigm of goodness, and [the prime thinker’s] commandments constitute our moral duties. Thus, theism provides a better explanation of objective moral values and duties.
The objective basis for moral values is quite evident in the universe. I invite you to close your book and open your eyes. In any universe, created or evolved, in any rollout of evolutionary processes or any process of creation, where conscious thinking life begins to exist, where thinkers are capable of aiding and abetting each other’s existence or of ending each other’s existence, objective moral principles are clearly evident for all to see, without regard to the existence of a creator. We see we can choose to fight or choose to live in peace. If the former, only one of us is left standing, mortally wounded, thus ending intelligence conscious life on the planet. To choose to fight is therefore a choice of death over life. If instead we choose to live, then life itself is seen to be the moral value and we who choose life will create the rules to aid and abet the capabilities and qualities of life for each other.

This is what we are doing in our world today. We have a long way to go, but we shall never cease our labor until it is complete. We will build a world of peace and create the rules and mechanisms required to restrain and educate those who choose to fight.
4. [The prime thinker] provides the best explanation of the historical facts concerning Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Historians have reached something of consensus that the historical Jesus thought that in himself [the prime thinker’s] Kingdom had broken into human history, and he carried out a ministry of miracle-working and exorcisms as evidence of that fact. Moreover, most historical scholars agree that after his crucifixion Jesus’ tomb was discovered empty by a group of female disciples, that various individuals and groups saw appearances of Jesus alive after his death, and that the original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe in Jesus’ resurrection despite their every predisposition to the contrary. I can think of no better explanation of these facts than the one the original disciples gave: [the prime thinker] raised Jesus from the dead.
I have discussed the fallacies in the arguments for Jesus resurrection at length in this posting. I will only add here that if indeed Jesus existed, as one of the religious zealots in that region of the world during that period of time, then he too was prejudiced from birth by the scriptures. If we strip out the nonsense from the stories, if we try honestly to discover the man, we find a man who tried to help his people, indeed, who loved his people, knowing full well the eventual consequences of his actions.

If this is true then Jesus was indeed a wonderful man, beautiful in spirit, although sadly confused by his parent’s religion like so many in our world today. He was later crippled with the title of the sacrificial Christ and then slaughtered in the tradition of blood sacrifice demanded by scriptures seething mythical god in the sky, a mythology of blood and death that enslaves our world even to this day.

It is all a sad mythology Dr. Craig: that is all it has ever been. We are healing ourselves from this sadness, slowly, but steadily. We are embracing the gifts of reason we have been given, by the creation or by the cosmos.  In other words, Dr. Craig created or evolved, we see the same universe and the same moral truths. We awaken to find ourselves entrusted with children, so let us raise and educate them in truth.
5. [The prime thinker] can be personally known and experienced. The proof of the pudding is in the tasting. Down through history Christians have found through Jesus a personal acquaintance with [the prime thinker] that has transformed their lives. The good thing is that atheists tend to be very passionate people and want to believe in something. If they would only put aside the slogans for a moment and reexamine their worldview in light of the best philosophical, scientific, and historical evidence we have today, then they, too, would find Christmas worth celebrating!
It is not at all inappropriate for the atheist to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the man who loved and tried to help his people, who gave his life in that endeavor. Why not allow the mythology of the story of the manger and the shepherds and astrologers? We do not have to take it as literal truth, we can take it as our form of celebration for the life of youth, the beautiful spirit that tries to shine out before us in our children, the spirit we so maddeningly crush with imagery of the angry gods n the bible and Quran, the mythical beings that have never existed at all, at any time.

So yes, atheists, do lay out the stable and the manger, the shepherds and the sheep and then gently rest the boy in his swaddling clothes. The boy is Jesus, as beautiful as any child can be, before he was crippled by the world’s sad mythologies. He grew up strong and brave in spite of this and labored for the poor and downtrodden. We celebrate him, and we celebrate Moses and Mohammed, when we faithfully correct the mistakes they made, when we acknowledge they were all prejudiced by theories of  malevolent non-existing gods. Their descendants, our children shall be born free and receive the full and complete unprejudiced education that was denied to them. To do anything less than this is to dishonor all of those who we thought were prophets, indeed we dishonor all who have labored before us when we carry forward their mistakes uncorrected.

So Happy Jesus Birthday Dr. Craig. We eagerly wait for you to join us, the atheists in building a world of peace, where men no longer see each other as condemned by sad mythological gods.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Debating The Resurrection Story

The Christian belief system is based upon the idea that the bible is without error in fact or presentation.  Most Christians adopt this as the first tenet of their belief and then simply believe the bible stories as factual representations of historical events.  For no reason other than the fact that the bible stories were recited and finally written,  it is believed to be true.  In this regard, Christianity is the same as Islam wherein for no reason other than the fact that the Quran was recited and written, it is believed to be true.

Some theists understand that truth cannot be based upon a single book but a large number of theists are wedded to such a belief.  For them, the question is, if truth is to be based upon a single book and no other, how does one choose which book to believe? In his 1992 essay, Christian evangelist Josh McDowell, citing biblical and non-biblical writings, argued in support of the resurrection story. He reasoned that if the resurrection could be supported with objective non-biblical evidence, we would have reason to trust the gospel stories, and perhaps the entire bible.  This reprinting of the article in its entirety, citing fair use, provides a mechanism to respond point by point to his arguments. My responses are indented inline.

Evidence for the Resurrection
by Josh McDowell

For centuries many of the world's distinguished philosophers have assaulted Christianity as being irrational, superstitious and absurd. Many have chosen simply to ignore the central issue of the resurrection. Others have tried to explain it away through various theories. But the historical evidence just can't be discounted. A student at the University of Uruguay said to me. "Professor McDowell, why can't you refute Christianity?" "For a very simple reason," I answered. "I am not able to explain away an event in history--the resurrection of Jesus Christ." How can we explain the empty tomb? Can it possibly be accounted for by any natural cause?

Response: McDowell's first argument is the logical fallacy of non sequiter. This is a conclusion drawn from an insufficient argument.  McDowell inserts the conclusion of the argument before the argument itself in the paragraph above.  The argument is the empty tomb, the conclusion is the resurrection. 

If we opened Lincoln’s tomb today and found it empty, would we assume that Lincoln rose from the dead?  There are dozens of possible causes for an empty tomb, none of which are supernatural in nature. The very last road of inquiry we would follow is that Lincoln returned from the dead and for such a hypothesis we would look for ample supporting evidence. An empty tomb is woefully insufficient evidence for a resurrection. 

After more than 700 hours of studying this subject, I have come to the conclusion that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is either one of the most wicked, vicious, heartless hoaxes ever foisted on the minds of human beings--or it is the most remarkable fact of history.
Response: McDowell's second argument is a false dichotomy.  This is a logical fallacy where a choice between two extremes is offered in an attempt to imply that there are no other possible explanations. However there are other possible causes for a resurrection story that are neither wicked nor viscous in nature.  Here are some examples: 
1. Mary Magdalene is described as being mentally or emotionally disturbed (possessed by demons).  She is also described as being the first to discover what appeared to her to be the empty tomb. Such a troubled soul could indeed have become confused. She would not be intentionally perpetuating a hoax if in her emotional turmoil she truly believed that Jesus was resurrected, and she would naturally embellish the facts to persuade her circle of friends. As the story spread and more people believed it would be embellished with more claims to increase the persuasive effects. This evolution of a story in this manner is predictable human behavior.   
2. Ancient bible verses can be interpreted as hints for a resurrection  Jesus is described as having hinted at his own resurrection based on scripture.  His followers were conditioned to interpret events in a manner suggesting a supernatural cause.  If Mary Magdalene claimed resurrection  they would inclined to simply believe her and carry on with the story. Indeed, so sad at the loss of their beloved and  charismatic Jesus, they would welcome any opportunity to believe he continued onward and they would do exactly what it has been said they did, they would take up his message and spread it far and wide.   
3. Paul is described as a persecutor of Christians. Murder is a sin for which it is difficult to envision a path for atonement. How does one make amends for a murder?  This mental crises results in the psychological disturbances we see in all murderers. Paul was ripe for a vision, any vision.  He heard the stories of Jesus and this brought some hope.  He synthesized the stories and created the doctrines of Christianity to assuage his conscious.  What better than to ‘discover’ a religion that provided atonement? And so, in his vision, in his mental state, he thought he saw a figure and he thought that figure was Jesus and he proclaimed this as truth.
In none of these examples has the story of a resurrection been of viscous or wicked derivation. The resurrection stories do indeed appear to be the result of good intentions.
Here are some of the facts relevant to the resurrection: Jesus of Nazareth, a Jewish prophet who claimed to be the Christ prophesied in the Jewish Scriptures, was arrested, was judged a political criminal, and was crucified. Three days after His death and burial, some women who went to His tomb found the body gone. In subsequent weeks, His disciples claimed that God had raised Him from the dead and that He appeared to them various times before ascending into heaven.
Response: The only evidence we have for any of this is in stories written 100 years after the death of Jesus. For such a remarkable event, we would expect dozens of contemporaneous records. There are no contemporaneous records at all. What we do have is exactly what could be predicted. A misunderstood and/or wished-for set of events that is codified into stories and believed and enhanced as they change over time, finally set to written form after all the witnesses had died.  
Stories evolve and the principles of natural selection apply. Stories that embellished the doctrine in a manner that engendered the most psychological comfort and persuasive effect were accepted, other stories were rejected as they were recited by word of mouth. 
Mans original ideas about God were passed down in the same way, embellished over time. In his ignorance of scientific knowledge, he thought there might be agency behind the roaring thunder and strikes of lightning. He formed theories of the nature of the character behind such natural disasters and, quite logically after assuming agency, theories of angry gods were born. 
Recited from parent to child, the stories evolved in more detail.  As man disbanded into separate locales, the stories also evolved into the great diversity of theologies passed down to us today. Eventually man developed the tools required to set the stories down in writing.  New rounds of editing began. 
If we traveled to another planet, like earth, with storms and natural disasters, where life evolved like ours, we might expect that they would also have theories of angry gods and they would eventually be evolving like we are today, putting aside our irrational fears and understanding that these angry gods in the heavens, thought to have existed by our ancestors, have never existed at all.  
From that foundation, Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire and has continued to exert great influence down through the centuries.
Response: Ardent believers can be quite successful in spreading an ideology. Islam is another standout.  This does not lend credence to the content of the belief. We can see that a majority of people are content with a minimally sufficient education and are willing to follow religious leadership for emotional, cultural and social reasons. 
The problem arises when the leadership is psychologically unstable or indeed, of nefarious character.  Christianity has passed through phases of questionable leadership, leading to the crusades and even today, systems supporting child abuse. This is also true of Islam, where some Islamic scholars support the idea of 'marriage' for girls as young as eight years of age.  
It is truly sad that religion is used as an enabler of sexual assault on children. Believers wish to believe in a benevolent God, and if such a God exists at all, then we can see that the main activity of God is the creation of life and that further, we are entrusted with each newborn created by the very hand of God.  
There cannot be a greater sin in any theology than to take such cruel and merciless advantage of the beautiful meekness, innocence and joy of learning with which each child is created by God and entrusted to us.  If God exists, we are to educate the children with whom we are entrusted and we are to allow them to mature to the age of reason when they themselves can decide their journeys and the partners for their journeys. 
If God does not exist, we see the same world.  Life comes ultimately from the stars but we awaken every day to find ourselves entrusted with these same beautiful children. What more noble pursuit then to ensure their freedom and to grant them a full slate of human rights, educating them all, every one of them?
The New Testament accounts of the resurrection were being circulated within the lifetimes of men and women alive at the time of the resurrection. Those people could certainly have confirmed or denied the accuracy of such accounts.
Response: Those that denied the word-of-mouth stories were simply excluded from the groups, cut off from further communication. Evolution is once again at work here. A story cannot replicate through one who considers it to be not worth repeating. Only the believers were telling the stories. The game of telephone comes to mind. The stories evolved and changed over time as they separated into separate groups of believers, the stories no longer being corroborated against one another, resulting in more than a dozen gospels.
As groups separate they evolve separately. We see this in nature in ring species. Groups of salamanders move away from each other and over time evolve separately. Later, when they meet up again, they can no longer mate with each other. They have become separate species. The dozen gospels are disparate cultures of ancestral species of stories. This alone is sufficient physical evidence to know that the bible is not infallible and indeed, like the Quran, Torah and other ancient writings, is to be read, if read at all, with a great amount of circumspection.    
Stories were collected and edited into a final form and bound together into a book. Man discovered that believing that a book was infallible brought him psychological comfort against the terrors of the unknown. The comfort was physical, a release of pheromones (chemicals, hormones) in the brain. Eventually, the idea of The Infallible Book (TIB) evolved.  
"Fasten on to the book, all of the answers are there" became the general underlying creed of Christianity, Islam and Judaism.   It is not God that is at the center of these belief systems, it is a book, a collection of ancestral writings, feared now to be infallible. Such believers have become mentally afflicted.  
TIB has acquired a life of its own. It replicates in the minds of man, from parent to child, teacher to student. Eventually, ruling bodies became addicted with TIB and began to enforce TIB on the populations. This brings us to the present, where TIB addicts are roaming the countrysides of Egypt, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, forcing belief with violence, killing children who are reaching out for scientific education. We observe similar  behavior in the history of Christianity.  
TIB is defending itself with the same viscountess and fear as that of any animal. It has all of the characteristics of a jungle beast.  It is like a cuckoo egg, laid in the mind.  It hatches and kicks out logic and reason and demands sole attention, hypnotizing with mirrors of circular reasoning, lashing out with pheromones to cause fear and anguish on those who begin to see that the book is not at all infallible.  It is a battle for the mind. Reading science evicts the cuckoo, destroys the mirrors and brings back the inner joy and sense of wonder with which we were born.
The writers of the four Gospels either had themselves been witnesses or else were relating the accounts of eyewitnesses of the actual events. In advocating their case for the gospel, a word that means "good news," the apostles appealed (even when confronting their most severe opponents) to common knowledge concerning the facts of the resurrection.

F. F. Bruce, Rylands professor of biblical criticism and exegesis at the University of Manchester, says concerning the value of the New Testament records as primary sources: "Had there been any tendency to depart from the facts in any material respect, the possible presence of hostile witnesses in the audience would have served as a further corrective.
Response: We know that the writers of the gospels were not witnesses; they were not born until decades after Jesus died. The eyewitnesses were all dead by the time the stories were written.  We observe how the stories diverged within the separating groups, and that within their diverse communities hostile witnesses were dis-included   The four gospels were gathered because together they approached a coherent  story,  The other gospels were hidden or banished.   This is simple, observable and outstanding physical evidence that the older the writing, the less it is to be trusted for fact.   
The chief values of ancient writings then are not as sources for fact but for whatever timeless philosophical truths might be contained therein   The book of Genesis is a case in point.  A reasonable reading leads one to believe that it was never intended to be believed as literal truth. 
Separating the wheat form the chaff, it can be seen to perhaps have been constructed as a philosophical treatise on  the plight of man.  Are we to be our brother's keeper? In that timeless question there is indeed some value. The talking snake and the angry god are allegorical characters, entertaining, probably added afterwards.
Because the New Testament provides the primary historical source for information on the resurrection, many critics during the 19th century attacked the reliability of these biblical documents. By the end of the 1 9th century, however, archaeological discoveries had confirmed the accuracy of the New Testament manuscripts. Discoveries of early papyri bridged the gap between the time of Christ and existing manuscripts from a later date.
Response: This is the logical fallacy of cum hoc ergo propter hoc, which mistakes correlation with causation. The Latin literally means “with this, therefore that”. For example, two simultaneous events can be suggested as one having caused the other. In this case, it is true that archaeologists often discover manuscript.  However, in no way do these discoveries confirm the accuracy of the content of the manuscripts. 
Those findings increased scholarly confidence in the reliability of the Bible. William F. Albright, who in his day was the world's foremost biblical archaeologist, said: "We can already say emphatically that there is no longer any solid basis for dating any book of the New Testament after about A.D. 80, two full generations before the date between 130 and 150 given by the more radical New Testament critics of today."
Response: Even if the dating argument is true, this is still four generations removed from the time of Jesus. By the time documents were created, the original witnesses were all dead and in no position to refute what were being written. This simple observable fact should raise alarms on the part of believers.
 Coinciding with the papyri discoveries, an abundance of other manuscripts came to light (over 24,000 copies of early New Testament manuscripts are known to be in existence today). The historian Luke wrote of "authentic evidence" concerning the resurrection. Sir William Ramsay, who spent 15 years attempting to undermine Luke credentials as a historian, and to refute the reliability of the New Testament, finally concluded: "Luke is a historian of the first rank . . . This author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.

" I claim to be an historian. My approach to Classics is historical. And I tell you that the evidence for the life, the death, and the resurrection of Christ is better authenticated than most of the facts of ancient history "
. . . E. M. Blaiklock Professor of Classics Auckland University
Response: Writing that "there is authentic evidence" is not the same as producing the evidence.  None has been produced. The writers of the Book of Acts had historical knowledge, yet still they were writing many years after the death of the witnesses, both hostile and friendly. They may have been capable of being good historians, but we observe that they decided to become evangelists for an ideology instead.  A motive of persuasion enters their writings. This logically should lessen our trust for them as historians.
The New Testament witnesses were fully aware of the background against which the resurrection took place. The body of Jesus, in accordance with Jewish burial custom, was wrapped in a linen cloth. About 100 pounds of aromatic spices, mixed together to form a gummy substance, were applied to the wrappings of cloth about the body. After the body was placed in a solid rock tomb, an extremely large stone was rolled against the entrance of the tomb. Large stones weighing approximately two tons were normally rolled (by means of levers) against a tomb entrance. A Roman guard of strictly disciplined fighting men was stationed to guard the tomb. This guard affixed on the tomb the Roman seal, which was meant to "prevent any attempt at vandalizing the sepulcher. Anyone trying to move the stone from the tomb's entrance would have broken the seal and thus incurred the wrath of Roman law.
Response: This argument is self refuting. If such seal was broken, there would be dozens of records of the wrath of the execution of the Roman law. There are no documents.  
But three days later the tomb was empty. The followers of Jesus said He had risen from the dead. They reported that He appeared to them during a period of 40 days, showing Himself to them by many "infallible proofs." Paul the apostle recounted that Jesus appeared to more than 500 of His followers at one time, the majority of whom were still alive and who could confirm what Paul wrote.  
Response: As described above, Paul was mentally disturbed by his own admitted guilt as a murderer. With good intention he embellished the story in the desire to persuade the listeners. After all, if the story is true, the embellishment cannot make a difference. This is neither the first or last religion created by men desperate for a way to assuage their guilty consciousness. Religion creates a post-justification, in the minds of the sinner, for sins committed.
So many security precautions were taken with the trial, crucifixion, burial, entombment, sealing, and guarding of Christ's tomb that it becomes very difficult for critics to defend their position that Christ did not rise from the dead. Consider these facts: 

As we have said, the first obvious fact was the breaking of the seal that stood for the power and authority of the Roman Empire. The consequences of breaking the seal were extremely severe. The FBI and CIA of the Roman Empire were called into action to find the man or men who were responsible. If they were apprehended, it meant automatic execution by crucifixion upside down. People feared the breaking of the seal. Jesus' disciples displayed signs of cowardice when they hid themselves. Peter, one of these disciples, went out and denied Christ three times.
Response: McDowell's argument here is the logical fallacy of ad nauseum, argument of repetition. in this case repeating the argument of the Roman guards. It is self-refuting. If this is to be believed, the fact that there are no documents of a broken seal is indicative of the fact it never occurred.  
As we have already discussed, another obvious fact after the resurrection was the empty tomb. The disciples of Christ did not go off to Athens or Rome to preach that Christ was raised from the dead. Rather, they went right back to the city of Jerusalem, where, if what they were teaching was false, the falsity would be evident. The empty tomb was "too notorious to be denied." Paul Althaus states that the resurrection "could have not been maintained in Jerusalem for a single day, for a single hour, if the emptiness of the tomb had not been established as a fact for all concerned." Both Jewish and Roman sources and traditions admit an empty tomb. Those resources range from Josephus to a compilation of fifth-century Jewish writings called the "Toledoth Jeshu." Dr. Paul Maier calls this "positive evidence from a hostile source, which is the strongest kind of historical evidence. In essence, this means that if a source admits a fact decidedly not in its favor, then that fact is genuine."
Response: Josephus writes of Jesus in evangelical terms. This is indicative of one who was prejudiced by Christian belief, or that these passages were changed later to appear as historical writings of Josephus. There are no Josephus documents predating the 11th century. The Toledoth Jeshu documents were parodies of the Jesus stories, written 1000 years after the death of Jesus.  McDowell is grasping at straws here.
Gamaliel, who was a member of the Jewish high court, the Sanhedrin, put forth the suggestion that the rise of the Christian movement was God's doing; he could not have done that if the tomb were still occupied, or if the Sanhedrin knew the whereabouts of Christ's body.
Response: This argument is self refuting. In addition to his suggestion, Gamaliel would have also documented the empty tomb. He had no knowledge of an empty tomb. 
Paul Maier observes that " . . . if all the evidence is weighed carefully and fairly, it is indeed justifiable, according to the canons of historical research, to conclude that the sepulcher of Joseph of Arimathea, in which Jesus was buried, was actually empty on the morning of the first Easter. And no shred of evidence has yet been discovered in literary sources, epigraphy, or archaeology that would disprove this statement."
Response: McDowell employs the logical fallacy of Argumentum ad ignorantiam, or begging the question.  A resurrection must be proven, not disproved  A remarkable event requires remarkable evidence. Such has not been provided in any part of this article.
On that Sunday morning the first thing that impressed the people who approached the tomb was the unusual position of the one and a half to two ton stone that had been lodged in front of the doorway. All the Gospel writers mention it. There exists no document from the ancient world, witnessed by so excellent a set of textual and historical testimonies . . . Skepticism regarding the historical credentials of Christianity is based upon an irrational bias. Clark Pinnock Mcmaster University Those who observed the stone after the resurrection describe its position as having been rolled up a slope away not just from the entrance of the tomb, but from the entire massive sepulcher. It was in such a position that it looked as if it had been picked up and carried away. Now, I ask you, if the disciples had wanted to come in, tiptoe around the sleeping guards, and then roll the stone over and steal Jesus' body, how could they have done that without the guards' awareness?
Response: There is another resurrection story in the bible, where Jesus is said to have raised Lazarus from the the dead.  Upon arrival at the tomb, Jesus issued the simple command, roll away the stone.  The objection was not the arduousness of the task, but the possible condition of the corpse. Nevertheless, they rolled away the stone, and nobody marveled at the rolling away of the stone.  There was nothing miraculous about the rolling away of the stone.
The Roman guards fled. They left their place of responsibility. How can their attrition he explained, when Roman military discipline was so exceptional? Justin, in Digest #49, mentions all the offenses that required the death penalty. The fear of their superiors' wrath and the possibility of death meant that they paid close attention to the minutest details of their jobs. One way a guard was put to death was by being stripped of his clothes and then burned alive in a fire started with his garments. If it was not apparent which soldier had failed in his duty, then lots were drawn to see which one would be punished with death for the guard unit's failure. Certainly the entire unit would not have fallen asleep with that kind of threat over their heads. Dr. George Currie, a student of Roman military discipline, wrote that fear of punishment "produced flawless attention to duty, especially in the night watches." n the night watches."
Response: This again is argumentum ad nauseum, repetitive and still quite self refuting: There would be dozens of contemporaneous documents for such an event, and there are none.  
In a literal sense, against all statements to the contrary, the tomb was not totally empty--because of an amazing phenomenon. John, a disciple of Jesus, looked over to the place where the body of Jesus had lain, and there were the grave clothes, in the form of the body, slightly caved in and empty--like the empty chrysalis of a caterpillar's cocoon. That's enough to make a believer out of anybody. John never did get over it. The first thing that stuck in the minds of the disciples was not the empty tomb, but rather the empty grave clothes--undisturbed in form and position.
Response: This is another non sequiter. If we opened  the tomb of Lincoln and discovered empty clothing, would we assume he had risen from the dead?  If we were emotionally bound up with Lincoln, if we were conditioned to expect a miracle, if we thought he might survive death, if we thought he was sent by God, we might indeed believe on nothing more than empty clothes.
Christ appeared alive on several occasions after the cataclysmic events of that first Easter . When studying an event in history, it is important to know whether enough people who were participants or eyewitnesses to the event were alive when the facts about the event were published. To know this is obviously helpful in ascertaining the accuracy of the published report. If the number of eyewitnesses is substantial, the event can he regarded as fairly well established. For instance, if we all witness a murder, and a later police report turns out to he a fabrication of lies, we as eyewitnesses can refute it. eyewitnesses can refute it.

Several very important factors arc often overlooked when considering Christ's post-resurrection appearances to individuals. The first is the large number of witnesses of Christ after that resurrection morning. One of the earliest records of Christ's appearing after the resurrection is by Paul. The apostle appealed to his audience's knowledge of the fact that Christ had been seen by more than 500 people at one time. Paul reminded them that the majority of those people were still alive and could be questioned. Dr. Edwin M. Yamauchi, associate professor of history at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, emphasizes: "What gives a special authority to the list (of witnesses) as historical evidence is the reference to most of the five hundred brethren being still alive. St. Paul says in effect, 'If you do not believe me, you can ask them.' Such a statement in an admittedly genuine letter written within thirty years of the event is almost as strong evidence as one could hope to get for something that happened nearly two thousand years ago." Let's take the more than 500 witnesses who saw Jesus alive after His death and burial, and place them in a courtroom. Do you realize that if each of those 500 people were to testify for only six minutes, including cross-examination, you would have an amazing 50 hours of firsthand testimony? Add to this the testimony of many other eyewitnesses and you would well have the largest and most lopsided trial in history.
Response:  There is no documentation of the event other than from the mouth of Paul.  It is not in any of the gospels. this highly indicative of an evolving story.  Paul embellished the story because he was in the business of persuading others to believe his story. Was Paul evil? Paul was ill. He truly believed his religion that offered himself a path for atonement. If Jesus rose from the dead, as Paul believed, what difference does it make if he appeared to one, two, twenty, or five hundred? So claiming an appearance before 500 seems like a harmless embellishment if the underlying story is actually true. 
Another factor crucial to interpreting Christ's appearances is that He also appeared to those who were hostile or unconvinced. Over and over again, I have read or heard people comment that Jesus was seen alive after His death and burial only by His friends and followers. Using that argument, they attempt to water down the overwhelming impact of the multiple eyewitness accounts. But that line of reasoning is so pathetic it hardly deserves comment. No author or informed individual would regard Saul of Tarsus as being a follower of Christ. The facts show the exact opposite. Saul despised Christ and persecuted Christ's followers. It was a life-shattering experience when Christ appeared to him. Although he was at the time not a disciple, he later became the apostle Paul, one of the greatest witnesses for the truth of the resurrection. If the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt. F. F. Bruce Manchester University The argument that Christ's appearances were only to followers is an argument for the most part from silence, and arguments from silence can be dangerous. It is equally possible that all to whom Jesus appeared became followers. No one acquainted with the facts can accurately say that Jesus appeared to just "an insignificant few." Christians believe that Jesus was bodily resurrected in time and space by the supernatural power of God. The difficulties of belief may be great, but the problems inherent in unbelief present even greater difficulties. The theories advanced to explain the resurrection by "natural causes" are weak; they actually help to build confidence in the truth of the resurrection.
Response:  Paul is not known to have met Jesus. So, if he had any vision at all, he had no way to verify the identity of the speaker.  Paul was desperate, mentally unstable, quite ripe for an hallucination.  He did not  despise Christians, he spent the rest of his life in desperate atonement to the Christians, aiding and abetting their cause, the occasional embellishment thrown in where necessary.  This is how he tried to atone, like the fable of Cain, walking and wailing in the earth a marked man. We need not think he was evil.  Instead we can complete his atonement for him, we can make the world a better place, we can teach our children that the angry gods in the skies have  never existed.    
There is no favored people, we are all equal, created or evolved. We no longer have to mistrust each other due to our fear to doubt ancient books.  We can build a world of peace.
A theory propounded by Kirsopp Lake assumes that the women who reported that the body was missing had mistakenly gone to the wrong tomb. If so, then the disciples who went to check up on the women's statement must have also gone to the wrong tomb. We may be certain, however, that Jewish authorities, who asked for a Roman guard to be stationed at the tomb to prevent Jesus' body from being stolen, would not have been mistaken about the location. Nor would the Roman guards, for they were there! If the resurrection-claim was merely because of a geographical mistake, the Jewish authorities would have lost no time in producing the body from the proper tomb, thus effectively quenching for all time any rumor resurrection.
Response:  The whole Roman Guard argument is repetitive and self refuting as detailed in other sections above. Also the emotionally wrought Mary Magdalene could well have gone to the wrong tomb.
Another attempted explanation claims that the appearances of Jesus after the resurrection were either illusions or hallucinations. Unsupported by the psychological principles governing the appearances of hallucinations, this theory also does not coincide with the historical situation. Again, where was the actual body, and why wasn't it produced?
Response: The mentally unstable are prone to hallucination. Paul and Mary Magdalene are described as having been mentally unstable. 
Another theory, popularized by Venturini several centuries ago, is often quoted today. This is the swoon theory, which says that Jesus didn't die; he merely fainted from exhaustion and loss of blood. Everyone thought Him dead, but later He resuscitated and the disciples thought it to be a resurrection. Skeptic David Friedrich Strauss--certainly no believer in the resurrection--gave the deathblow to any thought that Jesus revived from a swoon: "It is impossible that a being who had stolen half-dead out of the sepulchre, who crept about weak and ill, wanting medical treatment, who required bandaging, strengthening and indulgence, and who still at last yielded to His sufferings, could have given to the disciples the impression that He was a Conqueror over death and the grave, the Prince of Life, For the New Testament of Acts, the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming. Any attempt to reject its basic historicity, even in matters of detail, must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted. A. N. Sherwin-White Classical Roman Historian an impression which lay at the bottom of their future ministry. Such a resuscitation could only have weakened the impression which He had made upon them in life and in death, at the most could only have given it an elegiac voice, but could by no possibility have changed their sorrow into enthusiasm, have elevated their reverence into worship." ated their reverence into worship."
Response:  If your friend rises from the dead are you less impressed if he is not feeling very well? Now, imagine Jesus being buried thirty days in the bare earth then digging his way out. That would be a resurrection, quite impressive, without regard to his physical state. So, if one believes ones friend has been resurrected, his physical state hardly matters Indeed then, Jesus could have swooned, rejoined with some followers before he passed away for good, and they, in their ignorance and emotional state could well have assumed a resurrection.
Then consider the theory that the body was stolen by the disciples while the guards slept. The depression and cowardice of the disciples provide a hard-hitting argument against their suddenly becoming so brave and daring as to face a detachment of soldiers at the tomb and steal the body. They were in no mood to attempt anything like that.
Response:  If they believed that Jesus might rise from the dead, their mood would have been remarkably different than that suggested.  A few men were more than enough to move a stone. If we are to believe the roman guards fled, then there was nothing to stop his followers from carrying away the body, still perhaps hoping Jesus would come back to life.  
If you truly believed this about your friend, you might do the same yourself to avoid him becoming trapped in burial.   He did say he would raise from the dead after all, and you believed him, so, you kind of have to get him out of the tomb sooner or later. So of course they moved the stone, discovering if he was dead or swooned or indeed, never placed there at all. We know the story of the roman guard is false, added later as an embellishment,  because there would have been heavy documentation of such an event. 
The theory that the Jewish or Roman authorities moved Christ's body is no more reasonable an explanation for the empty tomb than theft by the disciples. If the authorities had the body in their possession or knew where it was, why, when the disciples were preaching the resurrection in Jerusalem, didn't they explain: "Wait! We moved the body, see, He didn't rise from the grave"? And if such a rebuttal failed, why didn't they explain exactly where Jesus' body lay? If this failed, why didn't they recover the corpse, put it on a cart, and wheel it through the center of Jerusalem? Such an action would have destroyed Christianity--not in the cradle, but in the womb!
Response:  In Pilates time, zealots raised clamors for all kinds of supposed supernatural events.  A resurrection story would be just another one of them. Josephus writes of Pilate’s vexation with the Jews and their system of blind belief in their god and scripture.  If such a story would annoy them he would not be one to discredit it.    
One can imagine Pilate gazing over the tumult, amused at the vexation of the Jews by a gang of what he would have to describe as fools, believers in the resurrection of the body of Jesus, the location of which was quite well known to Pilate if he had ordered the removal of the body. Pilate would consider that the fools would calm down eventually. It would not be the last time somebody underestimated the height of zealotry to which blind belief can ascend. 
The more one studies the character of Pilate, if we are to trust Josephus at all, the more one considers that he was motivated towards the “heartless joke” explanation for an empty tomb. Pilate told his soldiers: “Make it look like he was resurrected…” His motivation was to vex the Jews. He had no idea as to the ultimate fate of Christianity, and no motive to suppress it.
Professor Thomas Arnold, for 14 years a headmaster of Rugby, author of the famous, History of Rome, and appointed to the chair of modern history at Oxford, was well acquainted with the value of evidence in determining historical facts. This great scholar said: "I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God hath given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead." Brooke Foss Westcott, an English scholar, said: "taking all the evidence together, it is not too much to say that there is no historic incident better or more variously supported than the resurrection of Christ. Nothing but the antecedent assumption that it must be false could have suggested the idea of deficiency in the proof of it."
Response:  This is the logical fallacy of argumentum ad verecundiam, or appeal to authority. The opinion of authority is insufficient absent the physical evidence to which authority is attesting. There is no physical evidence. So, the fact that an authority on “modern history” believed the Jesus stories adds nothing to the proof for the events in the stories.  
But the most telling testimony of all must be the lives of those early Christians. We must ask ourselves: What caused them to go everywhere telling the message of the risen Christ? Had there been any visible benefits accrued to them from their efforts--prestige, wealth, increased social status or material benefits--we might logically attempt to account for their actions, for their whole-hearted and total allegiance to this "risen Christ ." As a reward for their efforts, however, those early Christians were beaten, stoned to death, thrown to the lions, tortured and crucified. Every conceivable method was used to stop them from talking. The same is true for ardent followers of many of the world religions. The ascendancy of idiocy to zealotry is quick and deadly. Yet, they laid down their lives as the ultimate proof of their complete confidence in the truth of their message.

How do you evaluate this overwhelming historical evidence? What is your decision about the fact of Christ's empty tomb? What do you think of Christ? When I was confronted with the overwhelming evidence for Christ's resurrection, I had to ask the logical question: "What difference does all this evidence make to me? What difference does it make whether or not I believe Christ rose again and died on the cross for my sins!' The answer is put best by something Jesus said to a man who doubted--Thomas. Jesus told him: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (John 14:6). On the basis of all the evidence for Christ's resurrection, and considering the fact that Jesus offers forgiveness of sin and an eternal relationship with God, who would be so foolhardy as to reject Him? Christ is alive! He is living today. You can trust God right now by faith through prayer. Prayer is talking with God. God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart. If you have never trusted Christ, you can do so right now. The prayer I prayed is: "Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and trust You as my Savior. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be. Thank You that I can trust You."

Josh McDowell, according to a recent survey, is one of the most popular speakers among university students today. He has spoken on more than 650 university and college campuses to more than seven million people in 74 countries during the last 21 years.

©1992 Josh McDowell Ministry
Response: Josh McDowell started out with his psychological comfort of the bible, and 700 hours later, ended up with the same psychological comforts. The reasoning is mostly arguments of fallacy. There is no substantive evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. There never has been. 
Are you sad to read this? Do you love Jesus and find it so hard to let it all go? Think of this then: You are his follower and in that regard, you can imagine yourself living at the time he did, one of his followers, perhaps his very close friend. And you watched your beloved friend come to his sad death on a cross. You were the one to carry him down off the cross, to clean and anoint his body with spices and dress it for burial. You still believe in his message, “Do unto others…” and how he tried to help the most downtrodden of your society and so of course you love the man, who would not love such a man? Why not claim he was resurrected, adding force to his words? Why not continue to honor your friend by carrying on his ministry, armed with a spectacular story?
Bury now Jesus, your beloved friend, to rest in peace, roll back the stone. Turn around and see the children of man, lost in the mistrust of the separate religions. You have a world to fix and a day to start. If you are looking to atone, this is the path, fix the world. Prepare the way for the children of man. Was Jesus not as one of them? 
Perhaps he will live again, not resurrected, but reborn as we all are born, as a newborn child, with clean memory and a life of discovery ahead of us. What kind of a world will he face? Will he be subjected to TIB addicts forcing the ideas of fear based gods, ruining his culture, condemning women to lifetimes of tears, denying them education and freedom? Or will we have healed ourselves from this great millennium-spanning sadness? We have a lot of work to do.
Let us stop forcing our children into the circular reasoning of belief that a book is infallible. Let us educate them and when they have arrived at the age of reason, they will assess the books and decide their fallibility.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Objective Moral Truth

We might wonder at the ultimate origin of all of existence but we can know our own for a certainty: we are born as infants, the children of humanity. At some point we become conscious individuals aware of our own and each others existence.

We find ourselves born together, entrusted to each other. We can pick up our arms and fight, or we can learn to get along. The question that we face is this:

Given the choice between life and death, which do we value the most?

Without regard to the origin of the universe, this question remains. The answer to this question becomes the objective basis for all moral rules that might follow.

If we choose to fight there will be one left standing, mortally wounded, soon to die. If death is our highest value, then we should fight. Otherwise, we should choose life. We then create rules by which we will live in peace with one another. We take our oaths and then we make the decision to trust each other.

Observing that we are born with no choice but to trust our caretakers to see to our welfare, and that without trusting each other we are doomed to fight and die, trust is exposed as the primary objective moral concept.

The ancient philosopher who wrote the book of Genesis observed this same truth. In the story of Cain and able, the fundamental question arose in its infant form: "Am I my brothers keeper?"

Therefore, we value life and further, we recognize that we must have equality among each other. We must all be free to pursue our own happiness while maintaining our oath of trust to protect the lives of each other. Therefore we create rules of freedom and such rules rightfully include restraint of individuals who have failed to uphold their oaths. We can get out of the punishment business and into the healing business. We can provide the opportunity for the restrained to work while restrained to make restitution and to earn our trust once again. For one who has killed, restitution seems to be impossible but the work to earn our trust should remain the goal, without regard to the number of years it might take even if ones entire life.

We protect each other. We are each others keepers. This is true in any universe where life evolves, and it is true in any universe where life is created. We have the power to live or die and to cause each other to live or die and we have the choice to make.

We have never needed a sacred book to see this simple moral truth. We have never needed a single word of any God that might exist. If such God exists, perhaps that is why God is silent. Any single word or phrase would be subject to fighting over its interpretation. This is born out in the atrocities committed by man over the centuries because of violent interpretation of words purported to be those of God.

In a created universe, the creation itself gives us the knowledge we need to create a world of peace. This is no different than a universe that is not created.

If one wishes to believe in God then it does seem pointless to believe in a God that is not wise. And as we can clearly see, a wise God would remain carefully silent, and if God exists, this is the God we see.

We can now begin to evolve together and create a world of peace. Created or evolved, atheist or theist, we all see the same objective moral truth.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Evolution of a World of Peace

In the past, natural selection favored the evolution of neural structures conducive to unquestioning belief. With the advent of free societies and flourishing education, such structures were no longer needed and began to vanish. However, in some pockets in the world, artificial selection of these same structures is resulting in a steady degeneration of thinking capacities and regression towards violence and restriction of the human rights of women and children.

As we evolved into conscious beings, we gained a predilection to simply believe what we were told. The shouted imperative, “…the storm is approaching!” served as well as “…the God of thunder is approaching!” in herding the children towards shelters. Those that did not believe became the victims of the calamities. The truth of the content of the warning did not matter as much as simply heeding the warning.

As the opposing armies of ancient tribes steeled themselves for impending battles, they were each abetted by a belief in a powerful god who was on their side, who would protect them during the conflict. The greater the force of this mindless belief, the more courageous the man in battle. Natural selection stepped in to weed out the skeptics.

Every battle has a victor and the winners were naturally inclined to give thanks to their mythical gods. Theories of the personalities of the gods were formed. These were passed down in stories and finally in written form. These early writings were precious indeed, not because of their content, but because they were so difficult to reproduce. They were the only writings around. The psychology of man was severely impacted by this dichotomy of value assessment over scriptures. The documents were scarce and thus sacred and this resulted in an equivalent valuation of the content. The scriptures began to be proclaimed as very words of the gods of wars. The contents of the warnings began to matter more than the reason for the warnings.

Today these same scriptures are handed to children all over the world accompanied by corporal threats that they must be never questioned. In some cultures, those children that grow to question the writings are cut off with violence. Artificial selection is at work here, culling the superior skeptical brain structures from the gene pool in favor of those structures conducive to mindless belief. The degenerative effect is plain to see in the violence of the persisting tribal wars and gross corporal punishments against the women and children. The belief that there exists a god that must be honored with violence against those who disbelieve is ensconced in the brains of the men, sewed up in a palpable fear response against any doubt.

Being hard-wired for mindless belief does not doom a man. The cure is patently simple: Read books of science. Study the accumulated knowledge of man. In short, become educated. It does not matter how long it takes, just keep reading. Mindless belief no longer serves to enhance our survival. As our children become educated they will test our beliefs and improve them. It is our job to make sure their minds are free from the prejudice with which we were inflicted by our religious parents. Natural selection will take over and their brains will improve.

The natural evolution of a human life is to learn. We are happiest when our minds are active, when we are learning new ideas and combining old ideas into novelties. In the free world, we have libraries, bookstores and the internet by which we can continue our lifelong educations. As we build a world of peace we will be making all of this knowledge available for everyone. We will document and enact human rights for all men, women, and children to access to the accumulated knowledge of man. To what greater or nobler effort can a free man attend than to bring these instruments of knowledge to the people of the world who today are denied?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Bible and Qur’an: The Trap, the Illness and the Cure

The written word can trap the mind of man. It is in our nature to grant some respect to what has been written. Some of us go so far as to grant ultimate and unequivocal respect to a writing that is held to be infallible. Once that happens a trap is set. If the writings themselves contain a circle of reasoning that threaten punishment for doubt as to truth of the writing, the trap snaps shut. A physical connection in the brain is forged, obscuring paths of logic with releases of fear inducing chemicals.

Many years ago, after we had evolved to our awareness of our own existence, we had begun to see each other as individual agents, operating according to our own internal plans. We saw this same pattern of agency in the great beasts of the field. We heard their distant roars in the evenings and we found them hidden in the grass, stalking and planning a time to strike. We saw the sudden springing, the vicious blows with claws and teeth and the execution of the kill.

We heard the distant thunder in the skies and learned that it could portend the same sudden strike and execution. As the thunder grew in power we huddled together and waited, assigning agency to the whims of the storms. This was a logical conclusion for our primitive logical minds. The storm was angry, like the great cats. Quivering against the torrents and lightning we breathed silent wishes as supplications, to beg the storm to move on and spare our children. When calm had returned we surveyed the windblown damage and counted who remained. We logically concluded that the angry storm had acceded to our requests and a concept of prayer had entered the mind of man.

From these simple beginnings, when we were just evolved and unaware of the science of nature, we elaborated stories of the great and powerful agent behind the volcanoes, storms, and earthquakes. We had little choice but to do so. We thought our only chance was to behave according to the wishes of the agents. And so we created stories of one or many Gods who demonstrated anger and discontent with the behavior of man. We learned that these stories can serve as a basis for moral rules and that if the community obeyed then relative peace could be observed.

As we evolved the written word these stories were set down and shared. The writings became sacred. The trap firmly closed around the inquisitive mind of man. The trap has always been with us, we are well and truly trapped, ruled by fear, ruled by the physical construction of a false idea in our brains. We are physically ill. The words of the writing command that everyone believe and worship. It is almost as if the false idea has taken on a life of its own, fighting as viscously as the lion for its survival. Men feel forced to honor the angry agent by killing others who dishonor its name. The false idea replicates, just like any living thing. It replicates throughout the generations of man. We have inherited the same false idea.

There is a cure. The false idea was sprung from our ignorance, the medicine is learning, the patient study and accumulation of knowledge.

There is no angry God, commanding belief and worship, intently watching with perfect eyes the eternal burning of anguished people in hell. Such a beast has never existed. It was borne of our ignorance and fear.

There is no God at all. We have this universe, we have each other. There might be life elsewhere and someday we can find it if we all survive.

Some of us wish for God to exist because we awaken in a world with children who need love. We are born and grow older and find each other looking for relationships of trust and love. And upon embarking on a journey of love we can hardly help but to whisper an occasionally prayer, that if there be any power that can lend some help that such help be given to the one who is beloved.

Indeed, if God exists at all, then all of us can see the decisions of God. And the decisions of God indicate clearly that if God exists at all, she must very beautiful and benevolent. She creates life, as newborn infants, and entrusts them to us. She is exquisitely beautiful in her nature and it is difficult to not believe in her, to not love her dearly in return. If you must believe then believe in the beautiful God you can see with your own eyes.

Let us take each other’s hand and climb together out of the trap. We escaped the fear of Zeus and Wotan, we can escape the fear of the angry God of Abraham, the Yahweh of the bible and the Allah of the Qur’an and all such angry punishing gods who we now can see never existed at all. We believed them in our youth and ignorance, we are grown now and putting away our childish things. We can understand now that those that spoke of them, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed and all of the rest, were themselves entrapped when young by the false idea of a god that has never existed. They reached out, to believe in God, meaning well for their people and we can honor them for that. We should not dishonor them by remaining ignorant in the trap we can now all clearly see.

Let us put down all our sad scriptures, and leave them for the historians to summarize. Let us take up instead books of science and knowledge and educate all of the children of man with whom we find ourselves entrusted.

Let us educate every child, leaving no child behind. They will educate their children and this will continue through the generations until someday, just maybe, you will be reborn as one of them, a brand new baby, with brand new memory, born into this beautiful universe, all of the accumulated knowledge of man freely available to you, waiting for you to once again take the lead, to lead the children of man, and if you wish the children of your beloved creator, to lead them to galaxies of watered planets.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Methodology of Truth

You will receive many messages in life. Some of them will be entirely true, some of them will be partially true, and some of them will contain no truth at all. You will receive some messages accompanied by an assessment of the truth of the message. Some messages will be of uncertain authorship. We see then that both the source of a message and any existing assessment of the truth of a message have no bearing at all on whatever truth is contained in the message. At the end of the day, you will have to examine the content of the message and if truth is found, it will be authenticated and proclaimed as truth by you.

Sometimes, you proclaim what you think is truth, only to discover a mistake. You make your corrections, proclaim your new understandings of the truth, and go on in life. The longer you live, the more time you have to discover and correct any mistakes you might have made. We all die however and so any corrections to the truth of the messages you left will be made by those that follow. They cannot do their job if they think they must honor you without question. They must examine the things you said and if indeed they wish to honor you, they must make the corrections that you will no longer be alive to make. The same holds true for the things that have been written in the past. If truth was their intent, and if honor is ours, we must examine what was written and make the corrections where necessary. And you must afford my writings the same respect, correct the things I might have misunderstood and proclaim as truth the things that remain.

You have a job to do. You have been given messages. Some of them have been proclaimed as truth. Some of them have been given to you in a sociopolitical climate that would act to restrain your right to examine and correct the messages. Some of these messages are considered to be sacred writings of your forebears, be they religious or political documents. You might have to be judicious in the timing and methodology you use to ensure that the truth is published.

For centuries, nations and cultures have enforced noncritical belief by eliminating, ostracizing or imprisoning those that objected.  Such practice can have a physical evolutionary effect. By the removal of minds prone to rational objection from the gene pool, slight gene mutations resulting in physical brain structures conducive to noncritical belief can be selected and become more numerous in the population. The relative quantity of those with structures conducive to critical reasoning will decrease.  Today more and more people spend their time mindlessly repeating what has been written, refusing to accept any assessment other than that the writings are infallible truth, without examination. They are not evil people: they are ill, they are lost, and some of them are trapped. They are unable to engage in rational methodologies conducive to discernment of truth.

There is a cure for this condition. It is education. If you believe you are prone to this form of thinking you have only to find and read as many books of science that you can find.  There are many like you in this world. Some of them are very young however, and such books are denied to them. Some of them are very old and as such well comforted against the fears of doubt. They might be unable to change. Some of them are between,some of them  leaders on the sociopolitical scene, mindlessly determined to increase the population of noncritical believers with whatever violence may be required. Some of them, and the generations younger than them, are capable of recognizing their mistake, and they do so, internally, only to then understand that they are trapped. Having previously committed with their group of leaders towards violent repression, they find themselves surrounded by these very same people who have proven their readiness to cut down quickly any source of objection.

Sadly, all of them might be ready to change, but none of them dare to raise their voice for fear that the others are not ready and so without regard to the number of them that are ready to change, they are all well and truly trapped into reproducing brains suited towards mindless belief and conscienceless violence.  The mindless beliefs, possibly supported by physical brain structures, operate like beaver dams, sealing off the flow of reason in the brain, creating a stagnant pool of fear. The end result, the most prominently visible phenotype of mindless belief, is a world where millions of children are denied rational, uncensored education in the accumulated knowledge of man.

There is a clear path to follow to escape the trap. It will take courage and time. It begins with the education of children and that begins with the recognition of the human rights of children.

Those of you who are leaders, whether or not you find yourself trapped, you can make gradual inroads in ensuring the secular education of the children of your culture. You must teach your children to love knowledge, to become brilliant. You can declare that your cultural and religious beliefs, and the documents on which they rest, are strong enough to withstand secular examination and that to prove this you encourage the fullness of secular education for every member of your culture, male and female. You must be willing to send them abroad for education when young. You must free your children.

The rest of the world can assist. We can recognize and declare the human rights of all children born into our world and that among these rights is the right to a complete education in the collected knowledge of man. And then we have but to create the schools and staff them with dedicated professionals who wish to change the world to one of global peace and prosperity.

If the whole earth had fallen under ancient Egyptian rule and stagnated, perhaps the great lot of us would be bonded together in the relatively useless enterprises of building pyramids, there being no greater work envisioned by our leaders. But we ourselves are the leaders today, it is not pyramids we build, we build cities and schools, we clean the earth, we educate the children of man and we populate the cosmos with our art and beauty. We have a planet of plenty, we can control our population, we can share resources, and we can return trees to the emptied forests.

Buried in mans ancient writings is the idea of a hideous god that burns people forever in hell, an entity that orders the slaughter of men, women and children, an angry hateful being that commands solitary abject worship for eternity. This idea, this ancient fable hardly worthy of a comic book, has become entrenched, replicating from generation to generation, crouched beneath the surface of the stagnant pool in our minds, rising like leviathan to roar out fear should any doubt be entertained. Its nemesis is truth; it is helplessly vulnerable to our courage and our reason. It shall be remembered as yet another mythical god in the ancient myths of man.

That raging god of the bible and the Quran has never existed. The scriptures are wrong. They have always been wrong. Our ancestors meant well but they were mistaken and they are no longer alive to lead us to the truth. We will have to crawl out of the abyss ourselves, in courage with one another, into the light of reason. We shall dissolve the damming structures in our minds, knowledge and truth shall flow freely. We will know each other as the great family of man we have always been, bringing art and science to one another. We shall be welcoming each child into the world, acting as repositories of trust for truth.  We shall educate them with love and care and they will usher us to our peace in their responsive beauty.

Some of you will be troubled by these writings. You will have spent a good deal of time believing in God, wishfully ignoring the unpleasant passages in the bible and the Quran that suggest such hideous qualities of the God you would rather learn to love. For those of you I can say that you do not have to give up your concept of a benevolent God, you have only to consider that the scriptures were sadly mistaken as to the character of God and then observe the universe, the creation if you will, to use your own mind to try to learn the nature of the one who you believe created you.

For after all, she might very well exist, and if she does then you can learn to love her by loving the things she loves. And you have never needed a book of scripture. You can see with your eyes the decisions of God. She has today created thousands of newborn babies and entrusted them to us, she has never stopped her creative ways. She is expressing faith and hope in us, waiting patiently for us to accept the beauty of the creation, to accept the beauty of each other, the same beauty she saw with cornered diamonds in her eyes when she last kissed us and placed us sleeping in the womb. We can love each other as we have been so dearly loved by our beloved God.

And if she does not exist at all, it is natural human expression to sometimes wish she did, if only to have somebody to thank for the beauty of the beckoning cosmos, the ecstasy of the evolving life we see, surrounded as we are by each other, mischievous, twinkling, singing, sharing Venus above the moon.

That will be you someday, there in the future. You shall be reborn as one who travels, you shall be alive on an orbiting moon, and there in your lover’s eyes you shall see the rings of Saturn.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Evolution of Knowledge and Belief

Thousands of years ago, man observed the great forces of nature and wondered if their was agency behind them.  Thunder sounded like roaring expressions of anger from somewhere on high. He formed his theories  God and began to think that God had an angry character.  These original oral traditions were passed down through the generations until they became written. Eventually, these ideas of a raging God formed the underlying theory for the God described in the religions based on the Old Testament writings. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are all based on this ancient concept of the God who seethes with anger towards man, to the point of creating hell as a place of eternal torment for those who do not believe in one scripture or another.

As time passed and man began to seek ways to build a world of peace, his religions evolved towards ideas of a generally more benevolent God. The idea that God would burn people eternally began to be seen as just another of the plenitude of mans fables that have been passed down over time. Nobody takes Zeus seriously anymore, and as man becomes better educated, fewer and fewer are taking that old fire-and-brimstone angry God of the bible, Torah, and Quran very seriously anymore.

While it is true, many people today maintain a fear-based belief in the perfection of the scriptures and its fables of the angry God, those numbers have also been declining. The scriptures are now seen as a mixture of fable and history, punctuated by opinions as to the nature of God. At times man seemed to coerce his idea of God to support his endeavors in war, going as far as declaring that God had told them to attack and slaughter the men, women, and children of neighboring villages and states, the very men, women, and children that the God they professed belief in created.

Believers today are evolving their understandings of God. God is seen to be overwhelming benevolent towards man. While natural disasters and accidents of fate continue to trouble believers with respect to understanding the nature of a creator who would allow such things to happen, people are beginning to look at it from God’s point of view. For example, if you were God, alone, and it was your desire to create thinking beings that were free to express themselves and to think as they pleased, but who were free to choose death if they could not bear to live, and taking everything else into consideration, you might start to come up with a design not wholly unlike our world today. While there remains much to be discussed, the discussion is fully engaged and lively across the world. Religions and systems of belief are evolving before our eyes. We understand now that if God exists, God is very beautiful and loving towards man.

At the same time, the rationality of atheism is becoming evident for a growing number of people. Believers themselves are admitting that even if God exists, such God places no constraints on belief and has no objection to atheism.

God is no longer seen to be afflicted with the traditional human character defects of jealousy, rage and narcissism described in the fables and scriptures. People understand now that if God exists, and has existed for the great expanse of the eons of the universe, his wisdom must be overwhelmingly beautiful to behold, if one could but behold it. If God exists then everyone can see the decisions of God, the decisions that God makes every day, the decisions to create life in the form of newborn children and entrust them to humanity for raising. God is seen to be expressing great faith and hope in us in these daily decisions.

There are still countries in the world where belief in the fabled raging God is enforced with corporal punishment by state and local governments. This is very sad for those so enslaved, especially for the women and girls who are often denied education. The boys are also restricted as to the content of the classroom material, the government or culture requiring that any scientific material that is in disagreement with the scripture be forbidden or corrupted in some manner to come into agreement with the fables. This is true even in the free states of the world, where fundamentalist believers try to deny rational scientific education to their own children.

But today, these children who are fortunate to live in the free states have the internet. As social networks expand they are finding that they have each other. They are in discussions and learning to understand that their parents mean well, trying to hide scientific knowledge, but that their parents themselves grew up a bit confused by the fables of the angry God.

The youth of today understands that it is not an easy for parents to leave their lifelong beliefs, no matter how irrational they are finally seen to be. Once one has been forced to believe in the raging God, a fear based psychological state can set in that is very difficult to escape. The escape for fear remains the same path that it has always been: become educated, read, and learn. There is nothing at all to fear. If God exists, God is quite beautiful and benevolent; we know this by observing the decisions of God.

We are humanity. Created by God or evolved from the cosmos, we are standing beautifully in courage. We speak the truth today. We examine the scriptures of our ancestors and we teach our children how these fables began and how the world is changing towards a more rational state, where human knowledge is expanding around the world. Some day all men, women and children will be free, with rights and accessibility to full educations in the arts and sciences of man. Some will remain believers and some will be atheist but all of us will have reached a common ground of understanding. We can live in peace, and together explore the cosmos, if we can learn to be repositories of trust for one another, to be our brother’s keeper.

The next generations of man, who have yet to be born, will be born into a beautiful world of peace, because today, we, their ancestors, worked hard to make it happen. We began to bravely speak the truth to one another, to put away our childish fears, to stand courageous to ensure liberty for all people for all of time.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

We Are Beautiful

We are all very beautiful. Created as infant human beings, whether by the universe or by God herself, we awaken to find ourselves gifted with each other. To build a world of peace, indeed to build worlds of peace throughout the cosmos, we have only to agree with each other that we will live as repositories of trust for one another, to be our brother's keeper. We have never needed a book of scripture to see this simple truth.

We awaken to a world where though many speak of God, we cannot find her anywhere. We wonder if we should set aside all thoughts of her and forge ahead in courage and in faith in ourselves, a faith that is emboldened with the knowledge that we have discovered new truths wherever we have sought them. For centuries we have been examining the evidence put forth by nature, imagining the reasons why things are so and testing these theories until they are proven to be ideas on which we can have reliance as we forge outward to the distant stars.

Imagine living in that future generation; imagine that you are one of them, a thousand years from now. You and scores of others are embarking on a journey to a planet discovered to be much like the earth when it was young, a planet teeming with plant and animal life, fed by another star, adorned with one or several moons. It would be lonely without a moon, would it not? But we still would have the stars to keep us company, and when we get there and settle in, we could point to one of them and tell our children that it is the very star that warms the planet earth where it all began.

You will be one of them, someday; you will be one of those children lying in the grass on that distant planet contemplating the star of earth. You will not have then the memories you have today. You will be recreated, by the universe or by God herself, as a newborn infant, all of your sadness and sorrow wiped away, a new clean slate of memory, a new life to build, a new opportunity to love your brothers and your sisters, new days and new nights to contemplate the stars and wonder where it truly all began.

You will be a brand new person, a thinker, and this is what you are today. There is no good reason then, today, why you do not put aside your sorrows and your sadness and think of yourself as reborn today, this very day. You are reborn today as one who has the memories that you have. There is nothing you can do about them, they are there, contemplated within your court of reason. The question is, what will you do today? How will you recreate this world to be the world of peace where we all work together to get to those distant stars?

If God exists, she is very beautiful. We know this because we are her works of art. She has created us as thinking beings and entrusted us to each other in a world of resources so readily shared. We awaken reaching out for one another and we are blessed each day, entrusted with created newborn children. We see this as evidence for her love for us. She has faith and hope for us, that we will raise our children in truth and in love, that we will teach them how to love each other.

Is she alive and thinking? Does she exist at all? If she does then why must we exist in this uncertain realm? If she is there then I wish to find her, to thank her, to love her in return. And thinking of this I can suddenly see it all. Until the time when I can love you, my brothers and my sisters, when I can truly see you as she sees you, as the created children she so dearly loves, then I am not returning love to her at all. I cannot love her if I cannot teach myself how to love the things she loves. So I have to get busy, I have to find a way to love all of you.

And so I understand her distance. She is very wise. She knows that it is not joy for me to find her before I am ready. I don't want her look of mercy for my failures; I don't want her look of pity for my sorrows.  I don't want to enter heaven and leave the children of God to their fate in this earth where so many of them are enslaved to enforced beliefs, taught to mistrust each other and denied the education that would heal them. I want to fight for them instead.  I want to be judged and sent straight back to live on earth, as a newborn infant once again, for as many lives as it takes for me, and for all of us, to see that this world is a beautiful place to live for her children, and indeed for her, if she would wish to have a go at human life, to be born as an infant, to entrust herself to us. Shall we not prepare her way?

We should prepare the way for the human children yet to be born.  Let us recreate this earth as a safe place for them, where they all can receive the sum of human knowledge and together share the earth and cosmos. If we believe in her we can do no less than that and if we do not, then we do it for ourselves because created or evolved, we have always been one of them, and forever we shall always be, we are the son of man, we are humanity, we are created children, we are beautiful.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Fastened to a Mast: The Cross of Belief

In many parts of the world today, when a child is born, he or she becomes metaphorically bound to a cross of belief. The child is instructed that he is a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or of some other belief system. We all can see that these are not statements of truth when they are made to a child.  A Christian is an adherent of Christianity.  A Jew is an adherent of Judaism.  A Muslim is an adherent of Islam.  All such  statements imply a decision of belief.  All of us can see that the uneducated child has not yet achieved the knowledge necessary to make an informed decision as to what he or she will believe.

Sometimes these statements are not made directly, implied instead in phrases such as "We are Christians..."  To be fair to the child, a more truthful statement would be more instructive.  Parents would say something like: "We are Christian, and we would like for you to join us in  our celebrations as you grow up and become educated." The parents would then ensure that the child receives a complete education.

However many children are  commanded along the lines of "You are Christian," or "You are Muslim, " or "You are Jewish." The child usually receives such instructions from those he most admires: his well-meaning parents, siblings, caretakers and teachers.  Recognizing their good intentions, the child  will take these instructions to heart and then survey the world. Within his own internal language, within his developing court of reason, the child thinks along these lines:

“I am one of this religion, and so are my loved ones, but none of us is one of those other religiions. All of those others believe that they have the truth and that we do not. My parents would never give to me to believe something that is not true so therefore only we have the truth and with good reason then these others cannot be trusted.”

Thus the child's court of reason has become corrupted by the false instruction. The child has accepted what he has been told as truth and become cornered within the prejudice of mistrust.    In some parts of the world, the child risks corporal punishment if he or she wishes to debate the truth of statements such as these. Some of them are truly trapped by nothing more than a false idea that is however protected by fear and violence.  They find themselves fastened tightly to the mast of the cultures ancient ship, sailing in sorrow past the islands of the children of man with whom they would have otherwise in joy shared this, their only epoch. 

The world today has not yet created the document that will specify their human rights. Some parents believe that they own their children and as such owners they are free to instill and enforce whatever beliefs and fears  they wish.  Their children are defenseless against such onslaughts, not being allowed the freedom nor the education to challenge the fears and beliefs of their parents.

If we are created then we can all see the rights granted to us by our creator. Our children are created and entrusted to us and we can respond to this love of God by raising them in love,  truth and fairness, ensuring that they will have the right to believe as they wish and the education with which to make a decision.  To do less than that is a betrayal of the trust that has been placed in us.  And if we are not created, we can all with reason see the rights that we ourselves should declare and grant to one another.   In both cases, we can all see that the human rights of children are the same and that among these rights are the rights to a full education and the rights to freedom of belief.

Therefore atheists and theists have a common ground of understanding and belief with regard to the human rights of children. And we who have inherited freedom, and parents who are beginning to understand what they must do to free their children, together with those who are still in silence bound, have a common goal to declare the rights of children and to enact them for all of time.