Why do Christians have hobbies?

If Christians really believe they’re going to heaven when they die and that this life is nothing compared to eternal life in heaven, then why would they do anything other than focus 100% on doing what Jesus would want? Wouldn’t that be trying to save people so they could go to heaven too? Literally nothing else in life should matter. Nothing else should hold any importance.

I understand practical things to further this goal like having a job to support yourself and your family and take care of life’s true needs. One needs food and shelter, safety and security, etc. But why would they have any kind of hobbies that aren’t focused on God? Why would they watch sports or movies, listen to secular music, play video games, etc? Every moment not spent on furthering the the cause of leading people to Jesus is wasted.

I’m reminded of the end of the movie Schindler’s List, where Schindler is in tears because he could have saved more people.

This car. Goeth would have bought this car. Why did I keep the car? Ten people right there. Ten people. Ten more people. [removing Nazi pin from lapel] This pin. Two people. This is gold. Two more people. He would have given me two for it. At least one. He would have given me one. One more. One more person. A person, Stern. For this.

Literally nothing else should matter. If it turns out that Christianity is true, then I picture Christians lamenting every misused moment, in tears over the souls they may have saved, while they played Call of Duty for 10 hours a week for a year instead. If you’re not a gamer that may sound like a lot, but I assure you, it isn’t. An hour or two a day, maybe 3 or 4 on the weekend… it adds up fast. Multiplied out it adds up to 520 hours a year! That’s more than 21 days. Three weeks worth of time that could have been spent focusing on leading people to Jesus.

If I believed I would be given one billion dollars if I lived a certain way for one year, and focused 100% on some certain thing, you can bet I could do that. Of course there are certain caveats, like a reasonable assurance of safety, and that I wouldn’t be required to do anything immoral, etc. But the point is that with the expectation of reward I could, and would, act a certain way or not act a certain way.

Now what if, in addition to this, the thing on which I had to focus was something I wholeheartedly -100% believed in? What if I believed it was the absolute best thing I could possibly be doing? In my case it could be LGBT rights, or advocating for science, or (if I were qualified) doing research to cure cancer. I could have a huge positive impact on the world, and receive a huge reward at the end.

Am I being unfair in comparing living a certain way for one year vs a lifetime? Perhaps. But consider eternal reward in exchange for a mere 80 or 90… even 100 years of doing what you consider the best possible thing to do. If anything, I think my comparison is generous. One year for one billion dollars, vs one lifetime for eternity. Last I checked, eternity is more than one billion lifetimes. Eternal life is the priceless reward Christians believe they will get.

So what’s going on? I can’t really say. I’m not going to do what some Christians do, which is claim to know what others really do or don’t believe. It’s very annoying when Christians claim that atheists really do secretly believe, but we’re just denying God because we “want to sin”. I’m not going to be so presumptuous, but it sure is an interesting question.

So why do Christians have hobbies?

The downfall of Josh Duggar

It’s hit the news recently that Josh Duggar allegedly committed sexual assault against five minors around 2005. It appears that at least some of the victims were his sisters and one was a babysitter. As one would expect, the story has been splashed all over social media. Josh is part of the Duggar clan featured on ’19 Kids and Counting’ and is now a former executive director at the Family Research Counsel.

Almost worse than Josh’s offenses, dad, Jim Bob Duggar knew what was going on and did almost nothing. He told church elders, who also did nothing for three months at which time they finally contacted the police. What did Jim Bob do then? Well naturally he tried to stop the police from interviewing Josh. These delays almost certainly allowed more victims to be assaulted.

Many non-Christians are gloating over the downfall of Josh, given the holier-than-thou attitudes constantly on display from the Duggars. I don’t think we should be gloating or celebrating over this. There is clearly some serious dysfunction going on, and it involves sexual assault against minors. That said, I do think the reaction that some people have had is understandable. I think it’s certainly okay to point out the mega-huge hypocrisy going on here.

The Family Research Council is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The FRC has said plenty of incredibly hateful and mean-spirited things about LGBT people. Josh has now quit the FRC, and essentially admitted to the allegations.

Many on the religious right think LGBT people are dangerous predators. In August of 2014, Michelle Duggar, with the backing of the FRC, was behind a robocall spreading fear mongering over an anti-discrimination bill in Fayetteville Arkansas. Part of the robocall:

“The Fayetteville City Council is voting on an ordinance this Tuesday night that would allow men – yes, I said men – to use women’s and girls’ restrooms, locker rooms, showers, sleeping areas and other areas that are designated for females only. I don’t believe the citizens of Fayetteville would want males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female to have a legal right to enter private areas that are reserved for women and girls.”

This is an extreme distortion meant to spread fear over something that just plain isn’t going to happen. The Duggars are virulently anti-LGBT and have made no secret of it. They’ve made no secret that they think LGBT people are dangerous predators who are after your kids.

This is not supported by evidence. We do however seem to keep hearing plenty of disturbing reports of sexual abuse in churches though. This isn’t surprising given the extremely unhealthy and unrealistic attitudes many Christians have towards sex and sex education, leaving kids misinformed or just plain uninformed. It’s no surprise that kids won’t know how to act properly when they aren’t taught how to act properly. So where are the real predators?

While some may be gloating, many LGBT people and advocates are just angry. We’ve watched people like the Duggars degrade LGBT people for years, and now this comes to light. Yet again it turns out the dangerous predator is one of their own, and it took over a year for it to even be reported to the authorities. This sort of thing happens time and time again, not with LGBT people, but with Christians, and often those who are most vocal about how evil LGBT people are.

“Erotic Liberty vs Religious Liberty”

“Erotic liberty vs religious liberty” is the new buzzphrase for bigots who want to attack LGBT people and deny equal rights to others, all based on religious beliefs.

The implication of “erotic liberty” is that those damn dirty gay people just want to get off at the expense of the “religious liberty” of devout Christians trying to stand up for Jesus. Christians who, bafflingly, seem intent on fighting tooth and nail to deny equal rights to a group of people over something that doesn’t even effect them. That’s called bigotry.

It’s hard to conceive of a more ignorant and bigoted phrase. It should hardly need to be said, but the fight for LGBT equality is not about eroticism. It’s about marriage. It’s about equal rights and equal treatment and protections under the law. It’s about all kinds of things, but eroticism isn’t really one of them. That’s what opponents of equal rights don’t understand. That’s what they refuse to understand.

But if they insist on the term “erotic liberty”, then the fact is that LGBT people want the same “erotic liberty” as everyone else. That’s where this new buzzphrase really fails. It doesn’t even say anything new. It’s still Christians trying to deny LGBT people the same rights that everyone else has. So we’re back to square one, and that square is equality. If they want to deny equal rights to a group of people, that’s still called bigotry.

The phrase appears to have originated with Albert Mohler, who is no stranger to saying ridiculous things. I’ve been told Mohler is one of the “brightest mind[s] in evangelical Christianity”, and that “leading secularists would have to recognize Dr. Mohler has one of the brightest minds in our country”. Oh boy, I don’t think so. From everything I have read from him in regards to LGBT people, contraception, atheists, and even yoga (among plenty of other issues) that he thinks are a problem for Christians, his arguments are painfully bad. I’m no expert. I don’t have a doctorate in anything. I’m a very amateur philosopher, and I found it comically simple to pick his arguments apart on just about any issue.

People like Mohler want to force LGBT people back into the closet. They want to turn back the clock to when LGBT people were treated like freaks and weirdos and second-class citizens. They want LGBT people to think of themselves as broken and sinful. Nevermind the depression. Nevermind the suicide. Nevermind the bullying when people think LGBT people are sick. Nevermind the cognitive dissonance of LGBT people trying to reconcile their natural orientation with what they’re told they should be. They don’t care about any of that. I know Christians don’t like this label, but too bad. Yet again, that’s called bigotry.

The upside to all of this is that the tide is against those who would use such rhetoric to push their bigoted views. Love is winning over hate. More and more people are coming to realize that everyone deserves equal rights. Marriage equality is advancing state by state. It’s not fast enough, but it’s happening.

But the really good news is that, despite all their stamping of their feet and hysterical shrieks of persecution, we don’t have to care what religious people think of all this. The separation of church and state, clearly defined in the US Constitution, says that we don’t make laws based on any religion. Unfortunately not everyone gets this, but that’s too bad for them. As with other civil rights movements, we shall overcome.

In Defense of Believers

I’ve been thinking lately about how a lot of atheists seem to view believers, and it’s not pretty. I’ve heard a lot of atheists call believers stupid, and there seem to be a lot of atheists who think studies have proven that believers have lower IQs. These studies are dubious, and even if there were some link, correlation is not necessarily causation.

Most religious people aren’t stupid. They don’t automatically have lower IQs. From my observation, many Christians in the US are generally ill informed about opposing views, or they have a strong need to believe for any number of reasons (they want to see grandma again, or they can’t understand morality without a god, can’t wrap their head around naturalistic origins, etc).

Most of them are indoctrinated (you could call it brainwashed) from a very young age, and religion certainly thrives on fear. Fear of hell, fear of being a bad person, etc. Fear is a strong motivator to do or not do something… or to continue in a belief in spite of doubt. Many believers never truly consider other points of view, but dismiss them out of hand. They are quite ignorant about other religious beliefs, and the fact that generally a person’s religion is overwhelmingly determined by their geography.

Again, none of this is meant to be insulting, nor is it meant as a blanket statement for all believers, but it is my observation. Cognitive biases can be very difficult to overcome, and when I talk about people being ignorant, that’s not an insult either. We’re all ignorant about a lot of things. With all the available knowledge in the universe, we’re actually all incredibly ignorant about most of what there is to know. I’m ignorant about knitting, nor do I have any desire to learn about it. Does this make me stupid? I don’t think so.

Some believers do realize that they should be able to rationally defend their beliefs, and venture into the dark forest of apologetics. Of those who do though, almost all of them seem go check out what apologists say, and it sounds logical to them, so they stop there. This is confirmation bias, and it’s a common thing for people to do, not just Christians. It’s human nature to group together with those who think like we do.

Those are just a few reasons why believers aren’t all big dumb stupid idiots.

I do want to make a distinction between religious idiots and the rest of them. There are those who I would call idiots, and some are idiots AND outright dishonest, like Ray Comfort and Eric Hovind. Ray and Eric and their ilk use deceptive tactics like quote-mining, emotional arguments, strawman arguments, and other fallacies. They have engaged in arguments and formal debates, and have been told so many times why they are wrong, yet still continue to say things those same things. That’s dishonest, and they are big dumb stupid idiots (or scammers, take your pick).

Now don’t get me wrong. This is all just my position on this, and I’m not the thought police or the tone police for atheism. I think we should stop calling religious people stupid as a blanket statement, but of course everyone is free to do as they like. I will say though, that dismissing people because you think they’re stupid isn’t likely to help anything. Do I occasionally go off and yell about creationists? Oh yeah. But in general I try not to. My views of religious people are evolving, and I think in a better and more productive direction.

10 Questions For Every Atheist

Well here we go again.  Another Christian website has come out with an oh-so-scary list of 10 Question For Every Atheist.  The list is actually ripped off from an atheist blogger, which wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that he DID answer them in his article.  They didn’t mention that, but only linked his original article at the bottom of their post.  I almost didn’t see it.

Ironically, the list as presented on todaychristian.net is preceded by “Some Questions Atheist Cannot Truly and Honestly REALLY Answer! Which leads to some interesting conclusions…”  The key word here is “honestly”.  Unfortunately they have demonstrated that they have little interest in honesty.

But off we go with their questions.

1.       How Did You Become an Atheist?

Finally understood the burden of proof, and realized no religion has any proof.

2.       What happens when we die?

We go back to what we were before we were alive: nothing.

3.       What if you’re wrong? And there is a Heaven? And there is a HELL!

Oh look, Pascal’s Wager. Never heard this one before.

I’m guessing I probably won’t have much say at that point. Due the question being asked by Christians, I’m guessing they are assuming their version of the afterlife according to the Bible is the right one. In that case it seems that I’ll be unfairly judged as to whether or not I was gullible enough to buy into nonsense that has no evidence.

A question in return though: what if you die and it turns out out the Muslims were right, or the Jews, or the Hindus, or another of the thousands upon thousands of religions?

There are numerous other reasons why Pascal’s Wager fails, but I think that’s enough for now.

4.       Without God, where do you get your morality from?

The same place we all get it from: the evolution of our species into a social group that is better adapted to survival by cooperation, based on an understanding of the nature of reality, that our actions effect others, and a sense of empathy. All of this is a result of evolution.

5.       If there is no God, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape? While good deeds are unrewarded?

No, and if you need a god to tell you that, you’re broken. See explanation in #4. You’re less likely to want to cooperate with somebody if you think they’re likely to kill or rape you, which means they’re less well adapted to survive and pass on their genes.

6.       If there is no god, how does your life have any meaning?

It has whatever meaning I choose to give it, which is far better than an arbitrarily assigned meaning.

7.       Where did the universe come from?

Big Bang.

8.       What about miracles? What all the people who claim to have a connection with Jesus? What about those who claim to have seen saints or angels?

What miracles? Name one that can be objectively verified. How do you even define a miracle?

9.       What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris?

Great people with great ideas, from whom I’ve learned a lot. I agree with most of their ideas but not 100%.

10.   If there is no God, then why does every society have a religion?

While most societies do have some sort of religion, not all do or have. Religions seem to originate in order to explain things we don’t understand or cope with things that are scary.

Now, the questions that they’ve ripped off from an atheist blogger have been answered YET AGAIN, and are being answered by atheists all over Facebook now.  I get that they don’t LIKE the answers, but the questions have been answered ad nauseam, despite the claim that they can’t be.  I wonder if they’ll stop using the questions now?

Heretics go to church: Riverpark Bible Church

So today we went to church.  It’s been a while, for obvious reasons (we’re atheists).  We’ve decided to start going from time to time, for a number of reasons.  First, we’re interested in what people believe and why, and we want to keep up with the current state of religion.  One of the best ways to do this is to go to church.  It’s partly just for entertainment, and it’s also harder for Christians to criticize us for being closed mined if we’re going to church.  And who knows, we may learn something new.

Our basic rules for ourselves are that we will dress appropriately and be respectful.  We aren’t trying to be disruptive or stand out.  We’re going to their house.  We will blend in as best we can, shake hands, etc, but if asked questions regarding our beliefs we will be honest.  We will sit in the service, stand when appropriate, and be respectful for prayer or whatever else.  We won’t participate in prayer; that would be dishonest of us.

So for our first church service since deconverting a little over a year and a half ago, we chose Riverpark Bible Church, a member of the Conservative Baptist Association of America.  No special reason; the church is near our house, it’s a good time in the morning, and Baptist is kind of middle of the road for Christianity.

We attended service at 10:30 am, Sunday the 29th of June, 2014.  We’ve driven by this church a million times, but hadn’t realized how big it was.  It’s a nice modern facility.  We went in and did the usual awkward hand shaking that visitors do, got our bulletins, and found a seat in the back.  Interestingly, nobody really tried to engage us.  I suppose it’s because it’s a large-ish church and nobody really knows who the visitors are.

The music was good.  They had a small orchestra and a choir, lead by a director.  The choir robes were maybe a little outdated, but it’s church, so what do you expect?  I would have killed for a setup like that when I was involved in church.  The usual song service went on, interspersed with offering and announcements.  The presentation was well planned and slick.

One of the announcements was about a “matter of church discipline” to be part of the evening service tonight.  That concept always seemed bizarre to me in today’s world, and I’m tempted to go see what that’s all about, but one church service is enough today.


 

Sermon summary

The sermon was titled “Fireproofing”, based on 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (KJV):

10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.

14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

1 Corinthians was written by Paul as a letter to the church at Corinth, which he had founded, and was going astray.  The particular verse is a metaphor talking about how Jesus is the foundation of the church.  The pastor made a point that many churches are departing from Jesus as the foundation, in favor of a fluffier message for today’s society.

I always find it curious when Christians pick on each other.  They essentially all say “we have it right and if you’re not doing it our way you’re wrong”.  The point was that as long as Jesus is the foundation, then whatever else is built on that is okay, but then he still went on to say that others were doing it wrong.  Other churches are church in name only, but we’re going it right.

The metaphor continues with the selection of building materials.  Among the selections are “gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble [or straw in the NIV]”.  Then the day will come when the building will be tested by fire.

Despite the impracticality of building an actual building with gold, silver, and/or precious stones, and the contrast of using obscenely expensive materials with the poverty message elsewhere in the Bible, the point stands.  Quality materials will survive and inferior ones will not.  Okay, so now what?

The inferior building materials were compared to “education, grades, a good job, and the American dream”.  The point wasn’t that those things are bad, but that the emphasis should be on following Jesus.  As an atheist I obviously think it insane to put priority on the feelings of an imaginary being that can’t be proven, over quality of life (for ourselves and others) for the one life we do know we have, but if you buy into Christianity I suppose this is valid.  So build with the superior materials of glorying Jesus above all.

Okay, so far so good with regard to Christianity and the message of the Bible.  Then it took a truly bizarre turn.

There are a number of verses in the Bible referring to the judgement seat of Christ.  Without going too much into it (because this is already more of a Bible study than I meant to do), there seems to be consensus that the judgement seat is for Christians only.  I guess the rest of us will be dead already (the modern concept of hell is not from the Bible).  So now Christians will be judged.

The assertion in the sermon was that everyone who has made it that far is already saved and will spend an eternity in heaven.  So what’s the judgement?  It’s not how bad you were, but how good you weren’t.  Yes, I’m confused too.  Apparently those who did really really good things (and the right kind of really really good things) will get great rewards.  Those who weren’t as good will get the cheap seats, or as the pastor put it (and he did say this was just his opinion) they will suffer embarrassment.

The problem is that there isn’t supposed to be suffering in heaven.  If some get better rewards, then those who don’t would be in a lower position.  What is the point of better rewards?  To elevate those who receive them.  If some are elevated, others are lowered by comparison.  Those who are lowered will suffer to some degree by being in a lower position.  If there is no meaningful difference between different positions, then there is no point.

Verse 15 says the builder will suffer loss but still be saved.  But there cannot be suffering in heaven.  Revelation 21:4 (KJV):

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

If there can be no sorrow or crying or pain, then there can be no “suffering loss”.

So for those who have asked why we are going to church, this is one of the major reasons.  Our first time out and we discovered a major contradiction that we weren’t aware of before.

But it was a good experience.  We learned something new, had a great discussion after, and just had fun.  Hit the “follow” button to get updates on our adventures, and other articles.

Bulletin - Riverpark Bible Church

Criticizing science

It seems like a lot of Christians love to criticize any science that conflicts with their interpretation of the Bible.  There’s a problem with that though.

Most of us are not equipped to have a proper in-depth understanding of scientific concepts.  When it comes to subjects such as nuclear physics, neuroscience, evolution, or cosmology, we can have an understanding of the basic concepts, but when it comes to a comprehensive understanding, the professional opinions of those who are qualified to hold them are what actually matter.  The rest of us can have discussions on the findings and opinions of qualified professionals, and even bring up questions or objections, but again, we should defer to those who are qualified.

Creationists try to circumvent this by attacking the scientists and their “worldview”, their “bias”, or their “presuppositions”.  They attack rather than simply proving their god assertion and they don’t listen when told why these attacks are wrong.  If they could prove any of their claims then they simply would.  If they had evidence then they could just show it to everyone and we’d all believe, except we wouldn’t call it belief, we’d call it knowledge.

Most are just intellectual vandals, chucking rocks at hard won scientific knowledge.  They don’t contribute anything; they just yell “nuh-uh” and run away with their fingers in their ears so they don’t hear why their criticisms are wrong.  Some try to argue or debate, but when their arguments don’t work, they either keep yelling “nuh-uh” endlessly, or move on to their next canned argument that’s already been disproven, unfazed that their trail of previous arguments didn’t work.  Some try to play at science, but find themselves at odds with the vast majority in their field.

When it comes to evolution or the Big Bang, the “scientific dissenters” are not the rebels who will turn out to be right.  Creationists had their time.  Human beings have believed in gods and the supernatural since we began to be able to form ideas.  I think we could say that almost everyone who has ever lived used to believe in creation in some form or another.  Now we know better.  Science has shown all those myths to be incorrect.

We could just point and laugh but the problem is that they influence other people who are ill equipped to understand why the good Christian scientists telling them what they want to hear are wrong.  Confirmation bias meets persecution complex, so naturally the revolutionary ideas are being suppressed.  More than just ill equipped, most don’t WANT to hear why they might be wrong.  Most think it’s preferable if their god exists so it must be true and they’ll listen to whoever agrees.

So if you have an objection to science, go find some evidence for your objection or come up with an alternate hypothesis and then prove it.  You can participate in the process, but you better know what you are talking about if you want to be taken seriously.  Hell, one of Stephen Hawking’s theories was proven wrong by Leonard Susskind, originally a plumber from New York. But Susskind did actual scientific work.