What is an UAP (Unidentified Atmospheric Phenomenon)?

For many people, an atmospheric phenomenon is either explainable through our current knowledge, or it is necessarily of extraterrestrial origin.

This irrational dichotomy has hindered any serious, open and non-dogmatic discussion about the existence of not-understood aerial phenomena from happening.

 

This has prompted me to create a new blog on this topic and in the following post, I go into the possible nature of an UAP which merely means something in the sky we cannot account for at the moment.

According to this definition, some religious miracles such as the Wonder of the Sun in Fatima are UAPs as well.

 

 

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Hopeless prayer?

An Gott zu glauben in einer Welt voller Absurditäten

Believing in God in a world teeming with absurdities

Das alte Testament war nicht nur voller Texte, die Gottes Grösse, Güte und Wohlwollen priesen.

The Old Testaments wasn’t only full of texts praising God’s greatness, bounty and benevolence.

Nein, es enthielt auch tiefe Klagelieder und sogar Anschuldigungen gegen den Allmächtigen, der so grauenvolle Übel in der Welt und in ihrem persönlichen Leben zuliess.

No, it also contained deep lamentations and even accusations against the Almighty who allowed such atrocious evils in the world and in their personal life.

Seltsamerweise genug haben fast ALLE moderne christliche Gesänge einen siegreichen Ton und erlauben es zerbrochenen Seelen nicht, die Verzweiflung auszudrücken, die sie ehrlich fühlen.

Strangely enough, almost ALL modern Christian songs have a victorious tone and don’t allow broken souls to express the despair they’re sincerely feeling.

Deswegen war ich entzückt, als ich eine junge deutsche Rapperin entdeckte, die sich über Gott beklagt hat.

Therefore I was delighted as a I found a young German female rapper complaining about God.

Ich bin mir nicht sicher, dass sie eine Christin ist, aber ich fand was sie sang profund und einsichtsvoll.

I’m not quite sure if she’s a Christian but I found what she sang profound and insightful.

Von daher verlinkte ich ihren Gesang und habe es auch auf Englisch übersetzt.

So I linked the song and translated it in English.

Wie viel Tränen braucht es noch um den Moment zu ertränken /

How many tears does one need for drowning the moment
wie viele Szenen muss man spielen, um das Schiff zu versenken /

How many scenes must one enact for sinking the ship
wir stehen im reißenden Fluss, ohne das Schicksal zu lenken /

We’re standing in a tearing flow, without being capable of steering fate
den Anker am Fuß mit dem Strick in den Händen /

The anchor is at our feet with the rope in our hands
ich geb’ vielen zu denken, was hast denn du gedacht /

I’m providing food for thought for many, what did you think?
wünsch’ mir erst ne gute Nacht, wenn das Gute mich bewacht /

First I long for a good night, when the Good is watching over me

du hast uns nicht zu dem gemacht, was wir heute sind /

You did not make us those who we are today
doch deine Schöpfung hat bewiesen, dass die Substanz nicht stimmt /

but your Creation has proved that the substance isn’t right
verlang von deinem Kind, was du gegeben hast /

Request from your child what you’ve given
ein Leben, das, regiert von Hass, nicht in Dein Streben passt /

A life that is ruled by hatred doesn’t fit your striving
nenn’ mir den Grund für die Idee, den Menschen zu kreier’n /

Give me the reason for the idea of creating man
denn keines deiner Wesen hat gelernt, zu existier’n /

For there isn’t any being which has learned how to exist
man lebt um zu verlieren, verliert um draus zu lernen /

One lives for losing and loses for learning out of it
lernt mit Verlust zu leben, bis man das Leben verliert /

one learns to live with loss until one loses life
die Suche nach dem Sinn soll meine Aufgabe sein? /

Seeking for meaning should be my task?
aus Angst ihn nicht zu finden, schließ ich die Augen und schlaf ein.

Out of fear of not finding it, I close my eyes and fall asleep
Ich glaub an dich, glaube fest daran, dass es dich gibt /

I believe in you, I firmly believe that you’re out there
doch glaube nicht, dass dir gefällt was du hier siehst /

yet I don’t believe that you’re pleased with what you see
unsere Welt vergießt Tränen im ewigen Krieg /

Our world is shedding tears in this everlasting war
wir brauchen bald ein Wunder, damit sich die Wunde schließt /

We soon need a wonder in order to close the wound
doch der Glaube liegt tief unter dem Hass und der Wut /

But faith lies deep underneath hate and anger
über Bomben, Politik und das vergossene Blut /

about bombs, politics and the shed blood
du wartest, tust nichts bis zum jüngsten Gericht /

You’re waiting and not doing anything till the judgment day
doch sie fürchten sich nicht, denn sie kämpfen für dich.

But they don’t fear each other for they’re fighting for your sake.

Menschen tun alles für Geld, alles für Macht, alles für Ansehen, Ruhm und Neid hat fast alles geschafft /

People do everything for money, everything for power, everything for prestige, glory and jealousy has almost caused everything

jede Zeit spürt die Kraft mancher heiligen Lügen / seis bei Hexenverbrennung oder bei Kreuzzügen /

Each time feels the strength of some Holy Lies, be it during witch burning or crusades
Geld sühnt Sünden und der heilige Papst /

Money atones for sins and the Holy Pope
lebt verschlossen hinter Türen in nem eigenen Staat /

lives behind closed doors in his own State

(Remark: the song was written before Pope Francis)
Palästina verbrannt für das heilige Land hat keiner erkannt /

Palestine burnt down for the Holy Land and nobody recognized this
Intoleranz hält auch ner Mauer nicht stand /

Not even a wall can withstand intolerance
denn nach jedem Kampf und seinem Heerführer /

for after every battle and its warlord
gibt’s gottseidank als Resonanz auch gleich nen Märtyrer /

there is (Thank God) as resonance also a new martyr
sag mir wofür sind wir da, such den Sinn der Szenerie /

Tell me why we’re here, I’m seeking the meaning of the scenery
im Verstand der USA und den Bomben auf Bali /

in the reasoning of the USA and the bombs on Mali
es geht nicht um dich, die Attentäter suchen sich /

It’s not about you, assassins are seeking themselves
da niemand gut zu ihnen ist, hoffen sie dass du es bist /

since nobody is good towards them, they hope you’ll be The one
und sei es Moslem, Jude, Christ, es sind wir die es betrifft /

We’re all concerned, no matter if we’re Muslims, Jews or Christians
weil durch jeden neuen Anschlag unsre Welt ein Stück zerbricht

because through every new strike, our world is being shattered a bit more
-chorus-

Siehst du die traurigen Kinder mit den traurigen Augen /

Do you see the sad kids with sad eyes?
die leeren Mägen der Kinder derer die an dich glauben /

the empty stomaches of the children of those who believe in you
hier ist alles so planlos, und das von Anfang an /

Here everything is so aimless, and that from the very beginning
wir versinken im Chaos und sind selbst Schuld daran /

We’re sinking into chaos and are ourselves guilty of this
du hast uns Gefühle gegeben, wir können denken und reden /

You’ve given us feelings, we can think and talk
und als dein Sohn zu uns kam, nahmen wir ihm das Leben /

and as your Son came to us, we took him his life
hier predigen Menschen vom Geben als dein Gesandte /

here folks are preaching about giving as your messengers
doch wo waren die Pfarrer als man die Juden verbrannte /

but where were pastors as Jews were being burnt alive
denn Mensch ist Mensch und wird immer Mensch bleiben /

for man is man and will always remain man
wir haben Angst zu verlieren deshalb müssen wir streiten /

We are anguished about losing therefore we fight
das Nächstenliebe uns im Wesen liege ist fraglich /

it’s questionable that the love for our neighbors lies in our being
ob ich die Bibel lese, frag nicht, ich glaub an Schrift /

If I read the Bible? Don’t ask, I believe in Scripture
nur gibt der Inhalt vieler Psalme vielleicht zu wenig Klarsicht /

Still, the content of many Psalms doesn’t perhaps provide us with much insight
weil so wenig von dem was passierte wirklich klar ist /

because so little of that what happened is really clear
bitte versteh’ mich nicht falsch, ich bin dankbar für viel /

Please, don’t misunderstand me, I’m thankful for much
nur versteh’ ich manchmal nicht, was dir am Menschen gefiel’

I just sometimes don’t understand, what pleases you in humans

https://i2.wp.com/www.kraftfeld.ch/bilder/2004/040626_fiva_mc_fotos/fiva.9.jpg

Ich hoffe ganz ehrlich, dass ihr daraus Inspiration schöpfen konntet 🙂

I sincerely hope you could draw inspiration out of it 🙂

 

 

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The main root of religious evil

The problem of religious evil

The New Atheists keep saying that religious atrocities and bad behaviors directly spring out of the supernatural character of their beliefs.

I think they’re deadly wrong, because there are no more logical connections between the general belief “There is a supernatural creator” and evil actions than between the conviction “There is no supernatural world” and the atrocities committed by Russian communists in the past.

No, I think that the main cause of religious wickedness consists of the evil nature of the deities the believers in question are worshiping.

A recent post from liberal pastor David Hayward illustrates this truth very nicely. It concerns fundamentalist Pastor Mark Driscoll who has reached an impressive track record of abuses ever since he began preaching.

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"The Gospel of Abuse" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

Many people are calling for forgiveness for Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church so that he and the church can get back to preaching the gospel as effectively as it had and get back on the road to success, just like it was before things started unraveling.

Andrew Jones of Tall Skinny Kiwi has written a good summary of what’s transpired up to now.

My question is: “What is the gospel?” Like this cartoon attempts to portray, isn’t the gospel about how we treat people, rather than how effectively we convert them?

Marshal McLuhan wrote years ago that “the medium is the message”.

This means that it’s not just the words you say, but how you say it and the culture it emerges from and the community it creates.

It’s become more than apparent that Driscoll’s and Mars Hill’s gospel is about abuse. It’s not about the emancipation of the human being, but the heavy-handed control of them.

This is not just about a few behavioral issues. The church’s behavior emerges out of its attitudes, beliefs and theology. Driscoll didn’t preach a healthy theology but struggled with some unhealthy behaviors. Rather, the unhealthy behaviors were born out of an unhealthy theology.

Driscoll abused people because this is his idea of how God treats people. Driscoll’s and Mars Hill Church’s god is an abusive god, a god who scorns gays, dismisses women, ridicules differences and bullies anyone who disagree with him. Their god is a god who presses his agenda with complete disregard for those who challenge it and are harmed by it.

No wonder they behave this way! Because their god behaves this way.

So all eyes are on Driscoll and his church this morning. What’s going to happen? Certainly not just a slight adjustment of policy. What is required is a complete overhaul of not just practice, but belief. Not an easy task!

Are you a survivor of church abuse? Come talk about it with us.

Sophia is a survivor. Read her story.

My art is all about freedom. Hang it in your house or work space!

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This was my response.

Thanks for this great series of posts, David!

You truly hit the nail on the head while pointing out that the fundamental question is “What is the Gospel”?

For passionate Calvinist Mark Driscoll, the “Gospel” can be summed up through the following points:

1) God predetermines everything occurring in the universe

2) God led the two first human beings to eat the wrong apple. As a consequence, He cursed their billions of descendants with a sinful nature making wicked deeds inevitable

3) Consequently every human being “deserves” an eternal stay in God’s torture chamber.

https://lotharlorraine.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/lake-of-fire-bg.jpg

4) God sovereignly determines IN ADVANCE those who will suffer forever and those who will be saved from this unending Ausschwitz .

I think it is undeniable that the god worshiped by consistent Calvinists is a heinous fiend (if you can pardon me this terrible understatement).
Calvinists keep saying that atheists aren’t able to live consistently with their assumptions whereas THEY are the ones facing tremendous cognitive dissonances.

They profess that God, the most perfect Being, is actually far worse than the most odious human criminal having ever lived.

If there really is such a thing as a “doctrine of demons”, I can’t think of a better candidate than Calvinism.

What infuriates me the most is that people like Mark Driscoll and John Piper passionately and joyously defend the (alleged) reality of never-ending torments for billions of people having been PREDETERMINED by God to act badly.

For me, this is similar to Germans in the Third Reich joyfully supporting the extermination policy of their Fueher.

The Gospel is a Good New for everyone and social justice is astronomically more important (in volume) that homosexuality.

For Calvinists, the Gospel is the most terrifying, despairing and absurd horror movie one can envision.

The misbehavior of Mark Driscoll is only the tip of a gigantic iceberg full of a loathsome and reeking theology.

If your most fundamental beliefs lead you to call the most horrendous evil “praiseworthy”, you’re bound to either bear incredible cognitive dissonance or act accordingly.

 

 

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Jesus und das politische Engagement (also in ENGLISH)

English Version: Jesus and political involvement

 

Vor einigen Monaten nahm ich teil an einem interessanten interreligiösen Gespräch über die Art und Weise, wie sein Glaube seine politischen Ansichten gestaltet.

Bild(Glaube, Politik und Nachbarn)

In Amerika betrachtet die religiöse Rechte (die hauptsächlich aus konservativen Evangelikalen besteht), dass das Gute durch eine irrtumslose Bibel definiert wird, die sie mit Ehrfurcht ansieht (und manchmal fast anbetet), ohne jegliche Rücksicht auf empirische Beweisstücke.

Ich halte eine solche Herangehensweise für extrem verkehrt. Die Bibel spricht mit widersprüchlichen Stimmen über viele Themen und konservative Evangelikalen müssen stets die Versen herauspicken, die sie für bare Münze halten, die dann logischerweise den Satz von gegensätzlichen Versen festlegen, deren Bedeutungen nun verzerrt werden müssen.

Bild(Wir können auch die Bibel zitieren. Eine Ehe sollte nur gelten, falls die Ehefrau Jungfrau ist. Wenn die Ehefrau keine Jungfrau ist, soll sie hingerichtet werden. (Deuteronomium 22:14-21).

Meine regelmäßigen Leser wissen, dass ich sehr oft die Neuen Atheisten sowie ihre Behauptung kritisiere, dass die Religion das schlimmste Gift der Welt sei, das völlig ausgerottet werden soll.

Ich denke, dass sie auch total in die Irre geleitet werden und nicht einsehen, dass die Hauptursache für religiöse Gräueltaten keine übernatürliche Überzeugung an sich ist sondern das Konzept, dass was immer Gott (oder die Götter) dekretieren gut ist und sorgfältig angewendet werden soll, ganz gleich was für Horrorren es involvieren mag. Es ist ein Punkt, dessen Wichtigkeit niemand anderer als der letzte Papst Benedikt betont hat.

Meiner Meinung nach würden religiöse Gräueltaten rasch aufhören, wenn alle Gläubigen den Gedanken erst nehmen würden, dass Gott moralisch perfekt ist, das heißt, dass er viel liebender und gerechter ist als der beste Mensch, der je gelebt hat.

Während seines irdischen Wirkens hat Jesus es klar gemacht, dass alle Gesetze für das Wohlsein der menschlichen Rasse existieren und keineswegs willkürlich sind.

Bild

Und Jesus fügte hinzu: Der Sabbat ist für den Menschen da, nicht der Mensch für den Sabbat.Markus 2:27  

37 Jesus antwortete ihm: “‘Du sollst den Herrn, deinen Gott, lieben von ganzem Herzen, mit ganzer Hingabe und mit deinem ganzen Verstand!’

38 Das ist das erste und wichtigste Gebot.
39 Ebenso wichtig ist aber das zweite: ‘Liebe deinen Mitmenschen wie dich selbst!’4
40 Alle anderen Gebote und alle Forderungen der Propheten sind in diesen Geboten enthalten.”  Matthäus 22,37

Es ist der Grund, warum ein gegen die Homosexualität eingestellter konservativer Christ Jesus nicht treu ist, wenn er nur behauptet: “Die Homosexualität ist verkehrt, weil Gott willkürlich es so gewollt hat.”

Nein, WENN die Homosexualität verkehrt ist, dann ist sie verkehrt, weil sie für das Individuum und die Gesellschaft schädlich ist und jemandem im Wege steht, eine liebendere und fürsorglichere Person zu werden. Sie sollten uns empirische Beweisstücke liefern, die es untermauern.

Alle politische Entscheidungen aus einem christlichen Standpunkt sollten darauf abzielen, das Wohlsein von seinen Nachbarn (d.h. der ganzen Menschheit) zu fördern, ihr Leiden zu lindern und sie dazu zu ermutigen, liebendere Personen zu werden.

Dennoch leben wir in einer äußerst komplexen Welt und es ist oft ziemlich schwer, herauszufinden, welche Reihen von Gesetzen wirklich nützlich wären und welche vermieden werden sollten. Menschen mit unterschiedlichen Ausgangspunkten werden mit einem gutem Gewissen widersprüchliche Überzeugungen erreichen, und wir alle sollten der selbstgerechten Versuchung widerstehen, sie als entweder dumm, falsch informiert, irrational oder bösartig anzusehen. Der progressive evangelikale Theologe Randal Rauser ist in seinem Buch “You’re Not As Crazy As I Think: Dialogue in a World of Loud Voices and Hardened Opinions” sehr gut darauf eingegangen.

Bild(Sie sind nicht so verrückt, wie ich dachte. Dialoge in einer Welt von lauten Stimmen und verhärteten Meinungen).

Selling one’s soul to the cult of Dawkins

British journalist Andrew Brown wrote an extraordinarily brilliant article concerning Dawkins and angry militant atheists.

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The bizarre – and costly – cult of Richard Dawkins

It’s like a church without the good bits. Membership starts from $85 a month
518 Comments 16 August 2014
DAWKINS16august

Listen

 

The other day I wrote something to upset the followers of Richard Dawkins and one of them tracked me down to a pub. I had been asked to give a talk to a group of ‘Skeptics in the Pub’ about whether there are any atheist babies — clearly not, in any interesting sense — and at the end a bearded bloke, bulging in a white T-shirt, asked very angrily where Dawkins had said there were any. I quoted a couple of his recent tweets on the subject:

When you say X is the fastest growing religion, all you mean is that X people have babies at the fastest rate. But babies have no religion.

How dare you force your dopey unsubstantiated superstitions on innocent children too young to resist? How DARE you?

These seemed to me to suggest quite strongly that Dawkins believes that babies are born atheists. But my heckler wanted scripture. ‘Where does he say this?’ he asked. ‘I’ve got his book, here!’ and he pointed to his bag. ‘Where does he say it? He doesn’t say it anywhere! You’re a liar!’

He reached into his bag and pulled out an iPhone, with a speaker already attached to it, and started to play a video clip in which, presumably, Richard Dawkins denied that he had ever claimed there were any atheist babies.

If this had happened even five years ago, the meeting would have been on the heckler’s side. In fact his performance was greeted by a general squirm. It’s difficult to remember the hosannas that greeted The God Delusion and the vote by Prospect’s readers that named Dawkins as Britain’s greatest public intellectual. Much of the atheist/humanist/secularist movement is now embarrassed by him, and repelled by the zeal of his cult of personality.

British ethologist, evolutionary biologi
Richard Dawkins Photo: AFP/Getty

My man in the pub was at the very low end of what believers will do and pay for: the Richard Dawkins website offers followers the chance to join the ‘Reason Circle’, which, like Dante’s Hell, is arranged in concentric circles. For $85 a month, you get discounts on his merchandise, and the chance to meet ‘Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science personalities’. Obviously that’s not enough to meet the man himself. For that you pay $210 a month — or $5,000 a year — for the chance to attend an event where he will speak.

When you compare this to the going rate for other charismatic preachers, it does seem on the high side. The Pentecostal evangelist Morris Cerullo, for example, charges only $30 a month to become a member of ‘God’s Victorious Army’, which is bringing ‘healing and deliverance to the world’. And from Cerullo you get free DVDs, not just discounts.

But the $85 a month just touches the hem of rationality. After the neophyte passes through the successively more expensive ‘Darwin Circle’ and then the ‘Evolution Circle’, he attains the innermost circle, where for $100,000 a year or more he gets to have a private breakfast or lunch with Richard Dawkins, and a reserved table at an invitation-only circle event with ‘Richard’ as well as ‘all the benefits listed above’, so he still gets a discount on his Richard Dawkins T-shirt saying ‘Religion — together we can find a cure.’

The website suggests that donations of up to $500,000 a year will be accepted for the privilege of eating with him once a year: at this level of contribution you become a member of something called ‘The Magic of Reality Circle’. I don’t think any irony is intended.

At this point it is obvious to everyone except the participants that what we have here is a religion without the good bits.

Last year he tweeted a recommendation of comments collected by one of his followers at a book signing in the US. Among them were: ‘You’ve changed the very way I understand reality. Thank you Professor’; ‘You’ve changed my life and my entire world. I cannot thank you enough’; ‘I owe you life. I am so grateful. Your books have helped me so much. Thank you’; ‘I am unbelievably grateful for all you’ve done for me. You helped me out of delusion’; ‘Thank you thank you thank you thank you Professor Dawkins. You saved my life’; and, bathetically, ‘I came all the way from Canada to see you tonight.’ With this kind of incense blown at him, it’s no wonder he is bewildered by criticism.

Like all scriptures, the Books of Dawkins contain numerous contradictions: in The God Delusion itself he moves within 15 pages from condemning a pope who had baptised children taken away from Jewish parents to commending Nick Humphrey’s suggestion that the children of creationists be taken away because teaching your children religion is comparable to child abuse. So believers can always find a scripture where he agrees with them, which naturally cancels out the one where he doesn’t.

Whether he means that religious believers are despicable ‘stumbling, droning inarticulate .. yammering fumblewits’ who are ‘likely to be swayed by a display of naked contempt’ (that’s from a 2009 blogpost) or ‘I don’t despise religious people. I despise what they stand for’ (from a 2012 speech) can lead to arguments as interminable as those over the peaceful or otherwise character of the Prophet Mohammed.

Similarly, does he mean that genes are selfish, or that they are co-operative? Both, it seems, and with equal vehemence. As he wrote, ‘The Selfish Gene could equally have been called The Co-operative Gene without a word of the book itself needing to be changed.’ This doesn’t seem to me to be strictly speaking true: it subverts the sense of a famous passage to change it to read: ‘Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish. Let us understand what our own co-operative genes are up to, because we may then have a chance to upset their design, something which no other species has ever aspired to.’

But what has got him in trouble with his own side is not biology of that sort, but the appearance of racism and sexism. Some of the stuff that he has written and retweeted about ‘evil’ Islam is shocking. A recent Dawkins tweet mentioning ‘mild paedophilia’ produced an eruption of outrage across the sceptical movement, not really helped by his claiming that it was all a matter of logic, and his opponents had had their thinking clouded by emotion — and the one thing everyone knows about Dawkins is that his followers are entirely rational.

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Here was my response.

Dear Andrew,

I cannot congratulate you enough for this incredibly profound, witty and insightful article.

As a progressive Christian I wholeheartedly agree with everything you wrote and I burst out laughing after having read your remark on all religious holy books being full of conflicting statements, leaving to devout believers the opportunity to pick and choose according to their good pleasure .

I’m a proud Germanic Frenchman living in the UK and I find that in Continental Europe, discussions between theists and atheists are far more civilized and reasonable than in the English-speaking world, especially in America.

When I look at religious fundies in the States on the one hand and at Dawkins and his underlings on the other hand, I cannot help but see a clash of irrationalities.

Anti-theists have a bigoted, intolerant as well as dangerous mentality and they have conspicuous similarities with religious extremism.

It is no wonder if one considers the fact that most belligerent atheists have been deeply traumatized by abusive religious groups in the past .

If you’ve been raised to believe that most human beings will be tortured forever in a fiery place, it’s no big surprise you can come to see the books of the New Atheists as genuine daylight in a world of darkness.

I think that all moderate and liberally-minded people should join their forces against all extremisms for ensuring an open society accepting all tolerant folks regardless of their worldview.

One first step in that direction consists of overcoming binary thinking . Questions such as “Is religion good for the world?” are extraordinarily unhelpful and misleading because there are countless harmful and beneficial secular and religious groups under the sun.
Pointing out the atrocities of Islamists and drawing the conclusion that ALL religions are bad for mankind is breathtakingly absurd.

Finally, let me say there was a time Dawkins made me really angry. Not because I found his arguments for atheism convincing (they’re only good against Biblical inerrancy) but because of the constant misrepresentation of his strongest opponents.

Now I just find him utterly pitiful and merely hope he’ll let go of his hate-mongering because he’s truly making a fool of himself.

 

 

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The strange disappearance of an Australian pilot

https://i0.wp.com/24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_madzfz1WLZ1qfb84vo1_1280.jpg

Many of my readers interested in apologetics, the philosophy of religion and the question of miracles might like a new blog I have created entitled “Shards of Margonia“.

It concerns the hot topic of Unidentified Atmospheric Phenomena (UAP) and UFOs.

It is a gross mistake to think that both are synonyms for extraterrestrial starships.

They just mean aerial phenomena which we cannot explain with our current knowledge and this was the original definition of the American Air Force.

In a recent post, I critically and skeptically examined an article from two CSICOP debunkers aiming at explaining the strange disappearance of a young Australian pilot.

Their paper turns out to be full of cherry-picking as well as a flurry of incredibly unlikely ad-hoc hypotheses.

I wind up proposing a scenario towards the end which is far more reasonable.

Self-proclaimed Skeptics (who are often militant atheists) like to delude themselves into thinking they’re the champions of rationality. Reality shows us they’re all too often as biased as the “True Believers” they see everywhere except in themselves.

 

 

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On the virtue of being pro-death

Progressive Evangelical theologian Roger Olson wrote a very interesting post on death penalty in America and its barbaric nature.

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“We Americans like to think of ourselves as among the most developed and civilized countries in the world (if not at the top of the list!). But much of the rest of the world thinks otherwise. We don’t help our case when we continue to engage in acts that can only be called barbaric.
According to published news reports, during the last year various states have carried out what can only be called botched executions described as “preventable horrors.” Most recently, Arizona executed a man named Joseph Rudolph Wood by torture. It took his executioners one hour and fifty-seven minutes to kill him—from insertion of the needle to his death. During that time, according to witnesses, he gasped and snorted. If that isn’t cruel and unusual punishment, I don’t know what would be.
Defenders of the death penalty are blaming drug manufacturers and resellers and opponents of the death penalty for these botched executions. That’s a red herring if ever there was one. It’s like blaming America and Great Britain for the Holocaust because they didn’t accept all of Germany’s Jews when Hitler offered them before WW2. If states (and the federal government) are going to kill people, it’s up to them to obtain the best means. It’s certainly not businesspersons’ fault or the fault of opponents of capital punishment if they fail.
My guess is that the very people who will point the finger at companies and critics of capital punishment are the ones who argue that businesses should be exempt for reasons of conscience from providing health insurance that pays for certain methods of birth control. But they are then being inconsistent. If Hobby Lobby and other Christian-owned companies have that right, so should chemical companies have the right to refuse to supply poisons to government entities that plan to use it to kill people.
Clearly it is governments that have failed. They are experimenting on human subjects. And it won’t do to say these subjects, the convicts, deserve death by torture. That’s blatant barbarism and anyone who says it is either not in their right mind or is simply a barbarian not worthy to participate in civilized discussion of these matters.
In my opinion, the only way this barbarism will stop is if the Supreme Court intervenes to declare all capital punishment cruel and unusual and at least place a moratorium on it until there is no doubt or question that it can be carried out humanely. (But I doubt that can ever be done.) But a faster way would be for state and federal governments to prosecute persons who carry out such barbaric botched executions. Does the law permit execution by torture? I certainly hope not.”

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Personally, I could understand why the most heinous criminals of our kind might deserve death and I can’t said I feel too sad about the Nazi officers having been executed after the process of Nuremberg. But I certainly don’t think they should undergo torture before passing away.

My main concern about death personality is that it inevitably involves that completely innocent people will be murdered, whereas imprisonment would at least give them a chance (however remote) to see the situation rectified.

What’s more, it goes without saying many folks executed stem from ethnic minorities and it is blatantly obvious that their free will was greatly limited through social and psychological factors.

I’m glad that death penalty disappeared from Western Europe and think Conservative Christians in America would be well advised to revise their priorities.

 

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Bullying in the name of Reason and Science

I just stumbled across a blog post from anti-theist Jerry Coyne where he took to task Lawrence Krauss for being too “moderate” (according to Coyne’s own enlightened standards).

I really think it’s a masterpiece in its own rights.

 

“Lawrence Krauss’s new book, A Universe from Nothing, is supposed to be very good; one of its points, I think, is to show that science disproves the cosmological argument for God.  In today’s Notes & Theories from the Guardian‘s science desk, Krauss has an essay called, “The faithful must learn to respect those who question their beliefs.” I suppose this stuff needed to be said, but if Krauss is calling for accommodationism, as he seems to be doing, his argument is naive.  Saying that the faithful must learn to respect those who question their beliefs is like saying, “tigers must learn to be vegetarians.”

I was a bit peeved from the opening paragraph:

Issues of personal faith can be a source of respectful debate and discussion. Since faith is often not based on evidence, however, it is hard to imagine how various deep philosophical or religious disagreements can be objectively laid to rest. As a result, skeptics like myself struggle to understand or anticipate the vehement anger that can be generated by the mere suggestion that perhaps there may be no God, or even that such a suggestion is not meant to offend.

Really? Is it really such a struggle for Krauss to anticipate and understand the anger of THE (my emphasis) faithful? I think not. And yes, some of the strategy is to offend, directly or indirectly, because one of the best ways to reveal the emptiness of faith is to mock it, and mock it hard in front of the uncommitted. That’s what P. Z. was doing when he nailed that cracker, and what I was doing when I drew a picture of Mohamed.

After citing several familiar examples of how reviled atheists are in America, Krauss concludes:

It is fascinating that lack of belief, or even mere skepticism, is met among the faithful with less respect and more distrust even than a fervent belief in a rival God. This, more than anything, leads to an inevitable and deep tension between science and religion. When such distrust enters the realm of public policy, everyone suffers.

It is fascinating, but understandable.  If someone believes in a rival God, they’re at least confessing belief in a sky-fairy—something transcendent. I can easily see why that’s far less threatening than suggesting that one’s belief in sky-fairies is unjustified and ludicrous.  For deep down, many religious people are deeply worried that they may be wrong.  If you put the basic beliefs of Catholicism in simple language, for example, as I think P. Z. Myers has (and Ben Goren on this site), they sound absolutely ridiculous. No wonder religious folks get all huffy if you suggest that they’re wrong or deluded, and why, in the end, they resort to asserting that evidence isn’t relevant at all: what’s relevant is revelation and what feels good to believe.

Krauss continues:

As a scientist, one is trained to be skeptical, which is perhaps why many scientists find it difficult to accept blindly the existence of a deity. What is unfortunate is that this skepticism is taken by many among the faithful to be an attack not only on their beliefs, but also on their values, and therefore leads to the conclusion that science itself is suspect.

The first sentence is bloody obvious.  And yes, it’s unfortunate that this situation exists, but it’s also inevitable—for religious values stem from religious beliefs. Where else would you get the idea that aborting an early-stage zygote is the same as human murder, or that it’s a sin for a man to lie with another man?

Krauss, who appears to have done a good job showing that the Universe could have arisen ex nihilo, then turns accommodationist, saying that new scientific knowledge need not drive a wedge between science and society.

As a result, the longstanding theological and philosophical question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?”, like many earlier such questions, is increasingly becoming a scientific question, because our notions of “something” and “nothing” have completely changed as a result of our new knowledge.

As science continues to encroach on this issue of profound human interest, it would be most unfortunate if the inherent skepticism associated with scientific progress were to drive a further wedge between science and society.

As a cosmologist, I am keenly aware of the limitations inherent in our study of the universe and its origins – limitations arising from the accidents of our birth and location in a universe whose limits may forever be beyond the reach of our experiments.

As a result, science need not be the direct enemy of faith. However, a deep tension will persist until the faithful recognise that a willingness to question even one’s most fervently held beliefs – the hallmark of science – is a trait that should be respected, not reviled.

The last paragraph seems rather naive. Unless there are mercenary considerations at issue, I’m baffled why he thinks science need not be a direct enemy of faith.  It need not be a direct enemy of only one kind of faith: deism.  As for the remaining thousands of faiths that see God as interceding in the world, yes, science must be their enemy. For religion—especially theistic religion—is based on revelation, dogma, and indoctrination, while science is based on reason, doubt, and evidence. No rapprochement is possible.

Getting the faithful to show respect for the way science works will not bring about a truce between science and religion, for lots of religious people already have that respect for science. They just don’t apply it to their own beliefs. That “deep tension” will persist not until religion respects science, but until the hokum that is religion goes away forever. (And if you think that’s not possible, look what’s happened in Europe over the last 200 years.) I wish Krauss had had the guts to say that in his essay.  But then he wouldn’t sell so many books.”

 

The hate of the New Atheists

 

I am thankful to Coyne that he showed us the true face of anti-theism. It is certainly not just about “ending religious  privilege” or “relegating religion to the private sphere”.

No, it is about WIPING OUT all religions by using vile emotional bullying and all sorts of vicious propaganda.

There was a time where I tried to patiently dialog with anti-theists and wanted to understand their stories. All I got in return were the most intolerable insults you can think of and the conclusion that I must either be a lunatic, a hopeless idiot or a liar.

 

As the Great Richard Dawkins put it:

““Mock them, ridicule them in public, don’t fall for the convention that we’re far too polite to talk about religion…Religion is not off the table. Religion is not off limits. Religion makes specific claims about the universe, which need to be substantiated.  They should be challenged and ridiculed with contempt.

“I suspect that most of our regular readers here would agree that ridicule, of a humorous nature, is likely to be more effective than the sort of snuggling-up and head-patting that Jerry is attacking. I lately started to think that we need to go further: go beyond humorous ridicule, sharpen our barbs to a point where they really hurt … I think we should probably abandon the irremediably religious precisely because that is what they are – irremediable. I am more interested in the fence-sitters who haven’t really considered the question very long or very carefully. And I think that they are likely to be swayed by a display of naked contempt. Nobody likes to be laughed at. Nobody wants to be the butt of contempt.”

https://i0.wp.com/www.machosofty.nl/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/130304RD-religion-shirt-_G0G5019final4.jpg

Militant atheist Richard Carrier added:

“By and large the minds of the ridiculous can’t be changed. It’s their flock we’re talking to. But even the ridiculous change under ridicule some respond by getting more ridiculous (and those are the ones who could never be swayed even by the politest methods), but others accumulate shame until they see the error of their ways (I’ve met many ex-evangelicals who have told me exactly that). Thus, ridicule converts the convertible and marginalizes the untouchable. There is no more effective strategy in a culture war.”

 

I constantly speak out for the need for a reasonable and polite dialog between moderate atheists and religious believers and am certainly willing to read challenges against theism from respectful atheistic authors.

Yet I hate being mocked and ridiculed by people towards whom I have only been friendly. This makes me angry and causes me to boycott all kinds of writings resorting to a similar strategy.

According to Carrier, the fact I did not react to emotional bullying by becoming an atheist means that I am a ridiculous and incorrigible “untouchable”.

 

I cannot help but consider Coyne, Dawkins and Carrier as anti-theistic prophets calling their followers to a holy war for getting the world rid of religious darkness once and for all.

 

The last lines of Coyne were particularly troubling. Basically his (implicit) reasoning was as follows:

1) It would be good to live in a world where creationism (and other anti-scientific beliefs) have wholly disappeared.

2) If ALL religions were to fade away, creationism would be no more.

3) Hence it is morally good to use our best types of psychological warfare to utterly destroy ALL religions.

 

Interestingly enough, French racists use exactly the same kind of reasoning:

1′) It would be good to live in a France where anti-white racism no longer exists.

2′) If ALL blacks and Arabs were driven out of the land, anti-white racism would be no more.

3′) Hence it is morally good to expel ALL blacks and Arabs from France.

 

Let us grant that both 1) and 1′) are true.

2) and 2′) are certainly technically true in both cases.

If ALL religions were to go away, there would be no longer any form of creationism, and if ALL blacks and Arabs no longer lived in France, anti-white racism would be no more.

But it should be clear that a vital fact has been entirely left out of the picture in the second racist reasoning. There are countless blacks and Arabs who are not racist against white folks and are completely respectful of French laws and customs.

It would be egregiously wrong to expel them as well for this would be a gruesome form of collective punishment.

 

Exactly the same thing can be said about Coyne’s reasoning.

There are countless moderate, progressive and even conservative religious believers who are not opposed to science and reason and who do not cause any harm to the society in which they live.

Advocating to systematically bully them out of their faith is equally egregious.

The fundamentalist mindset of the New Atheists is crystal-clear when you consider the number of times they fall prey to the cognitive distortions “binary thinking”, “overgeneralization” and “focusing on the negative”.

They all too often seem utterly unable to realize and recognize that like everything in our universe, the religious landscape of planet Earth is extremely complex and multifaceted. There is not one Islam and one Christianity but many forms of them, some of them promoting peace and tolerance, some of them fostering hatred, superstitions and (verbal or physical) violence.

 

Likewise, there are numerous kinds of atheists out there, many of them being nice and respectful people and some of them being hateful self-righteous bigots like the individuals I’ve dealt with in this post. And there are clearly forms of anti-theism preaching the use of physical violence for reaching their noble goal of annihilating all religions. This is all too obvious when one considers the persecutions of religious people by the hand of Chinese and the former Russian anti-theists in the name of making their respective countries free of religion.

 

I really think that anti-theism is a loathsome hate-group which should not be tolerated in an open society but harshly combated like all other extremisms.

In the same way hateful Christian fundamentalists are an utter embarrassment for the Master they pretend to follow, militant atheists are a shame for the very Reason and Science they profess to cherish.

 

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John Loftus and the instrumental mindset

Militant atheists often present themselves as dispassionate and incredibly “bright” seekers of truth whose conclusions are always impartial and well grounded.

I think that nothing can be farther from the truth and I want to illustrate this trough the behavior of a very active American anti-theist.

 

John Loftus is a former fundamentalist who became an anti-theist and views it as his greatest purpose in life to “debunk Christianity“.

sometimes agree with his criticism of fundamentalism and conservative Evangelicalism, but find that he most often utterly fails to address the position of his strongest opponent.

He has also made it perfectly clear that his goal is not to rationally examine religious topics but to use everything he can to reach “the end of Christianity”, like a perfect ideologist.

 

Consequently, he usually picks and chooses the worst passages of the Bible while picking and choosing their worst interpretations and concludes from that the whole Bible and Christianity in general is wicked.

(Click here to see another anti-theist using pretty much the same strategy).

 

So I was very surprised as I found  a blog post from him where he states the Bible teaches that hell means annihilation (the irreversible loss of one’s existence).

 

“Since I was able to question my Christian faith for the first time once I believed in Conditional Immortality or Annihilationism as the best Biblical description of hell, see here, I thought I’d offer a few brief notes on that view, from a Biblical perspective. I know there is a debate about this going on among Christian circles, but here are some of the things that those who dispute it must deal with:

We should not confuse the reality of hell with its images. The images of hell are of: 1) “everlasting punishment” (Matt. 25:46); 2) “eternal destruction” (Matt. 10:28); and 3) banishment into the “darkness” (Matt. 22:13; 25:30). How we interpret these images depends on other Bible verses. In the O.T. the wicked will cease to exist (Psalm 37, Mal.4: 1-2). Jesus in the N.T. shows us that the purpose of fire in punishment is to destroy or burn up the wicked (Matt.3:10-12; 13:30,42,49-50). According to John R.W. Stott: “The main function of fire is not to cause pain, but to secure destruction.” [Evangelical Essentials, (p. 316)]. Paul likewise emphasized destruction (2 Thess 1: 9; I Cor. 3:17; Phil. 1:28; 3:19). Peter likewise stressed the sinners’ fate as that of destruction (2 Pet. 2:1,3, 6; 3:6-7). Even in John’s book of Revelation, the lake of fire will consume the wicked (Rev. 20:14-15). G.B. Caird: “John believed that, if at the end there should be any who remained impervious to the grace and love of God, they should be thrown, with Death and Hades, into the lake of fire which is the second death, i.e., extinction and total oblivion.” [Commentary on Revelation, (p. 186)].

“The Bible uses language of death and destruction, of ruin and perishing, when it speaks of the fate of the impenitent wicked. It uses the imagery of fire that consumes whatever is thrown into it.” But “linking together images of fire and destruction suggests annihilation. One receives the impression that ‘eternal punishment’ refers to a divine judgment whose results cannot be reversed rather than to the experience of endless torment (i.e. eternal punishing).” [Pinnock, Four Views of Hell, p. 144].

L.E. Froom claims that conditional immortality was generally accepted in the early church until its thinkers tried to wed Plato’s doctrine of the immortality of the soul to the teaching of the Bible.” [The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, Herald Pub., 1966]. Biblically speaking, human beings are not immortal. God alone has immortality (I Tim. 6:16); well doers seek immortality (Rom. 2:7); immortality is brought to light through the gospel (2 Tim. 1:10); those in Christ will put on immortality (I Cor. 15:54), so that they now partake of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4).

If human beings don’t have immortality until they die in Christ when God grants it to them, then according to the Bible we cease to exist after we die. We are annhihilated, and that’s our punishment. And since according to the Bible God is judging us all along the way, there’s no need to believe that the figurative pictures of a great white throne judgement are literal events one can expect to experience, either.”

 

A far better defense of the concept this is the Biblical view of hell can be found in my interview with Chris Date.

 

Still, I was really stunned to have found that on the website of John. Annihilationism is a doctrine which is far more reconcilable with our moral intuitions than eternal torment, so it would have made more sense for John to defend the view the Bible really teaches that everyone of us will be literally tortured (as another member of DebunkingChristianity actually did).

So, does that mean that John wrote this out of intellectual honesty even if this makes Christianity taste more palatable? This is what I first thought before I saw one of his comments on the website of Dr. Glenn People:

 

My experience was that once I gave up an eternal hell it was a relief to me. Claim differently all you want to. But it allowed me to consider that I might be wrong without the threat of an eternal punishment.

And so the question remains whether annihilation will hurt or save the church. Without such a threat there is, well, no threat. It’s not quite the same as universalism but close. If all will be saved or if no one will suffer an eternal punishment then there is less motivation for missionary work or evangelism, and less of a need to preach correct doctrines rather than pop psychology which helps grow a church.

Without an eternal hell then another problem surfaces with the atonement? Typically the substitutionary doctrine says Jesus paid our punishment on the cross, but if there is less or no punishment then why did he need to do this at all? Why die to save human beings from extinction? To cease to exist is no punishment at all and therefore nothing to save anyone from.

I know you’ll answer these questions to your satisfaction, but these answers don’t satisfy me.”

 

So on average (according to Loftus) the doctrine of conditional immortality is a good thing because this would lead Christians to get less evangelistic and more willing to rationally question their faith.

I’ve grown convinced that John Loftus views everything as means to the end (of Christianity). As Randal Rauser wrote:

” Having just leafed quickly through it I was struck yet again by how much Loftus brought his Christian fundamentalism with him when he became an atheist. I see, for example, that his critique of Genesis 1-2 includes fundamentalist assumptions about reading ancient literature as a scientific account. Moreover, the book even ends with a “Commitment Page” (p. 467) in which Loftus asks the reader to sign their name that they are now an atheist committed to propagating atheism in the world. Once an evangelist, always an evangelist, I guess.

I hope to have a review of Loftus’ book sometime in August (I have two time sensitive reviews that I need to get out first).”

 

I think we can know beyond any reasonable doubt that John Loftus has remained a missionary fundamentalist.

More generally, searching a reasonable conversation with an American anti-theist is akin to seeking a rational discussion with a far-left or far-right politician who is doing everything possible to bring about his or her reforms.

It is an utter waste of time and I advise all my fellow Christians (both Conservative and Progressive) to avoid wasting your time on such websites where mockery, bullying and ridicule are commonplace. If you feel outraged by something they wrote, write your response on your personal blog but don’t challenge them in their own lands.

 

I’m really glad that in France and Germany, one can find PLENTY of non-militant and tolerant intellectual atheists who are willing to engage in friendly and rational challenges with no ax to grind.

In a truly open society (as defined by Karl Popper) it should certainly be possible to discuss about worldview differences without getting disagreeable.

 

 

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