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August 2012

The Bible is lousy at math

Aug 09, 2012 - Tags:

When it comes to science and mathematics, the Bible tends to cut a lot of corners; not surprising given the time it was written and the authors themselves. However, if it is the perfect word of God, it should be more accurate than this. Witness Pi, which most kids with some high school education can tell you is 3.14159. The truly underachivers in the class will likely still get it to two decimal places, namely 3.14.

Looking in the Bible, we discover that the value of Pi is 3, not 3.14 as those heathen non-believer mathematicians would have you believe. Three!

1 Kings 7:23-26
King James Version (KJV)
23 And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.

24 And under the brim of it round about there were knops compassing it, ten in a cubit, compassing the sea round about: the knops were cast in two rows, when it was cast.

25 It stood upon twelve oxen, three looking toward the north, and three looking toward the west, and three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east: and the sea was set above upon them, and all their hinder parts were inward.

26 And it was an hand breadth thick, and the brim thereof was wrought like the brim of a cup, with flowers of lilies: it contained two thousand baths.

Spiritual Experience for the Non-Religious

Aug 13, 2012 - Tags:

As an atheist, I am occasionally presented with the question of spirituality. Many will point out that spirituality is the hallmark of the religious experience. It follows then, that if I can claim to have experienced what might be called a spiritual experience, then I must allow for religion. Conversely, if someone is a non-believer, the spiritual experience must be alien to them; something they can't possibly understand. 

Not so. The spiritual experience is part of being human and one can feel it without the slightest nod to a god or that god's peculiar collection of rules and rituals. Awe and wonder are not shut out to me because I choose to eat whatever the heck I damn well please on Friday. Transcendent joy isn't locked away where I can never feel it because I choose to play with my children on Sunday mornings rather than taking them to a shaman who will do his best to close off their minds and chain them with the fear of a non-existent deity. 

I have had, and continue to have, real and powerful spiritual experiences. These include, in no particular order, and at various times in my life :

  • holding my wife in my arms
  • seeing my children being born
  • hearing my oldest son (who has autism) say something new, without prompting
  • figuring out a complex problem I have been working on
  • reading a really great book
  • looking out into a clear, starlit night
  • sex (one of the most powerful spiritual experiences a human being can have)
  • having someone do something kind for me, without my asking
  • standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon
  • seeing protozoa through my microscope
  • seeing the Rocky Mountains looming high above me as we drive ever closer
  • my first solo flight in an airplane
  • a loving kiss
  • seeing the impact marks from comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 in my backyard telescope
  • coming to grasp with some new learning (science books do this for me)
  • standing in front of the large tank at Marineland and watching the Orca swim by, inches away
  • catching the wispy Ring Nebula in my telescope
  • holding a copy of my first [published, written by me] book, fresh from the box
  • getting hugs from my kids with an "I love you" thrown in for good measure

Without reservation or exaggeration, I can honestly say that some of these moments are spiritual, even transcendent.

All those things . . . love, friendship, the appreciation of nature, the feeling of being carried away by music, the exploration of the self . . . none of these things require religion. Nor do they require a holy book of any kind. The Bible, the Qur'an, or the Talmud are no better moral guides, nor divinely inspired, than "Horton Hears A Who" or "Harold and the Purple Crayon". And in terms of enriching the human experience, I'd go with Horton and Harold.

Religion and its associated holy books are the trappings. If anything, they take away from the spiritual experience by providing you with a ready-made set of guidelines and rules that you must follow. They chain your mind and restrict your spiritual growth by teaching that the only path to true spirituality is through its complex maze of justification and fear. 

I'll close this post by suggesting that the path to spritituality and personal growth actually opens up when you reject God.

Incidentally, in a recent post I responded to a related argument where a couple of friends argued that since I believed in love, I must (obviously) believe in God. You can read my reply to that by clicking here.

Working on the Sabbath is a Deadly Mistake

Aug 15, 2012 - Tags:

When the weekend comes, I like to avoid work as much as possible. And that's probably a good thing because working on either Saturday or Sunday could get you killed by friends, neighbors, and possibly your loved ones, assuming they are devout Christians. Or Jews. You see, in the Bible, it specifically states that working on the Sabbath is a no-no punishable by death. Death by stoning no less. 

Harken to the word;

Numbers 15:32-35
King James Version (KJV)

32 And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day.

33 And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation.

34 And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him.

35 And the Lord said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp.

36 And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the Lord commanded Moses.

According to the Bible, the perfect and unchanging word of God, it's okay to kill someone for working on the Sabbath because God says so.

Now I have to say that I find this just a wee bit harsh. The guy was collecting sticks. I grant you that not being a Christian, I may be a little more forgiving about these sorts of transgressions, but killing someone for gathering sticks on a Saturday just seems over the top and maybe even uncalled for. There could have plenty of good reasons for this guy to be collecting sticks. Maybe the meat had gone off and rather than throw it out, he wanted to cook it, perhaps to feed his wife and eight kids (who were then fatherless).

Of course, back then Saturday was the Sabbath.These days, if you're a Christian, you probably want to avoid any kind of labour on Sunday because that's what the Catholic church changed the Sabbath to; Sunday.  

If you're curious about this change, follow this link to the Catholic Mirror, "official organ of Cardinal Gibbons, Sept. 23, 1893".  Interestingly enough, most Protestant Christian groups just went along with the Catholic renaming of the Sabbath, or at least didn't kick up much of a fuss. Sunday as the Sabbath wasn't made official until January of 1910 when Pope Pius X gave it his 'apostolic blessing'.  About the only Protestants who really don't like this whole Sabbath on a Sunday thing are the Seventh Day Adventists. 

So whether you are looking to do a little work around the yard on Saturday or Sunday, just make sure you do it out of sight of your Christian (or Jewish) friends, family, or neighbours. In 2012, they probably won't stone you in the public square, but you sure as heck wouldn't want to be wrong on this one, even if they can no longer attend church because Jesus said it was a bad idea.

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Bill Nye: Creationism Is Not Appropriate For Children

Aug 28, 2012 - Tags:

Several news sources made a story out of this one, including CNN (click here to read that one) who trumpeted "Bill Nye slams creationism". 

And so he should. So should we all. Teaching kids that the literal story of creation (I'm going with the Christian version since that's usually the one people get all excited about) is fact is a good way to make sure they grow up ignorant, gullible, and an object of ridicule to educated people, much like those who push that story in the first place. 

The Rape of Mary. Legitimate or not?

Image via WikipediaLast week was the week where the world was introduced to the concept of "legitimate rape". In case you missed it, Todd Akin, a US Senate hopeful for Missouri, suggested that in the case of 'legitimate rape', a woman rarely ever gets pregnant, because her body somehow knows this isn't the guy she wants to have babies with at which point it just fights off the invading sperm. Or something like that. Akin, a Republican, was trying to shore up his party's no-exception position on abortion by explaining that even in the case of rape, abortion isn't necessary because a woman wouldn't get pregnant. 

If she does, she's probably lying.

Outside a deep-seated hatred of women, the reasoning behind Republican and right-wing Christian America comes from the Holy Bible. The Bible, being filled with sex and violence, plenty of rape, and some good old-fashioned incest, is an excellent source of mysogenistic writing and does tend to explain how the brains of guys like Akin work. Or don't work as the case may be. That old collection of stories is also where they learn about science and reproductive biology.

Thinking about the Bible's richness on the subject of rape and the general sanctity of life, I was drawn to thinking about the most famous case of rape in the Bible, the rape of Mary, mother of Jesus. Technically, she was just a girl, so in our modern Western world, forcing a 14 year old girl to give birth to  your baby is statutory rape. But these were dark times, well before satellite television or the Internet. There were lots of 14 year old mothers around. 

Still, Mary was bethrothed to Joseph when God came calling. Did Mary's body know it had been raped? You would think it didn't because her body still got pregnant & gave birth to Jesus. So, in the logic of Akin, it wasn't a legitimate rape. I'm saying it had to have been rape because Mary didn't have a choice in the matter. Did she really have the opportunity to refuse? Could she? Let's take a look in the Bible and see what it had to say on the matter.

In The Name of God

Aug 30, 2012 - Tags:

This video by Ziggy Marley is pretty direct and to the point.

"All religion should be wiped out, so that people may just live."

Comments

I'm a very hard-line, angry atheist. Yet I am fascinated by the concept of devotion.

Joss Whedon