“Unstable Ground: Challenging Arguments for Christ’s Existence” now up at Atheist Republic!

My first blog post can be viewed at the Atheist Republic website.

It’s titled:

“Unstable Ground: Challenging Arguments for Christ’s Existence – Christians claim there is good reason to believe Jesus existed, but do their arguments hold up?”

My blogger page can be found here.

I will link further posts to this page.

An Appeal for David Viviano / GammaAtheist

Recently, a good friend brought to my attention something alarming. One of our own, a young atheist activist by the name of David Viviano (better known as GammaAtheist on Twitter, host of the Atheist Hangouts, and assistant to the Dogma Debate crew), has recently lost his job due to an unforeseen circumstance. He’s a hard-working advocate and father; an inspiration to those in the atheist community.

No one is immune to financial burden. We’ve all suffered from it in one way or another. And I will admit, I’ve been in situations where I was in need of help. If it wasn’t for those who supported me, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’m grateful for those in my life and in my corner.

I’m sure you’ve experienced this, also. The helping hands of others got you on your feet, put you back on track, and pushed you forward. Well, now is the time to make a considerable difference in the life of an incredibly talented person.

Pledge what ever you wish to pledge. $1, $5, $10, and maybe even $100. Any amount will make a difference!

Do it to help keep Atheist Hangouts on air.

Do it to help a fellow atheist, human being, and parent.

You can donate at Patreon.

Find David on TwitterYouTube, and visit his official website.

Please feel free to re-share this post, or simply spread the word yourself!

What Is Reasonable To Believe?

As the release of my book soon approaches, I’ve meant to discuss the issue of belief and what it takes before that belief is considered a rational one. Though this post will extend only as far as the God debate, reason could be applied to other kinds of beliefs which often regard the supernatural, paranormal, or conspiratorial. When one is in doubt of any claim, approaching the said claim from a non-subjective, skeptical standpoint can decrease ones gullibility, keeping the person from suffering anxiety, financial burden, and often times their health and livelihood. I press anyone to present a good reason why it isn’t in someone’s best interest to think a bit more critically about unsubstantiated claims. Thinking is good, but thinking clearly is better.

So what about the God claim must we think more rationally about? Almost everything, I am sorry to say. Let me use Christianity as the example for the post. Let’s say: If one dissects the Bible, sifting through the songs, poems, and parables, certain substantially viable claims are made. I will list a few below:

1. An eternal God is the architect and creator of all animate and inanimate matter, and he did so in six consecutive days.

2. A massive flood devastated land and life, covering the world completely.

3. A man (Jesus Christ) was born of a virgin, performed miracles, died and rose to life.

These included are, without a doubt, reasonable to believe. But does good reason exist for one to believe them? Do scientific and historical data reinforce these claims? This is an important key to cracking the puzzle that these Biblical claims present.

I could say, “I have seen a pink unicorn that feeds on four-leaf clovers.” This claim is reasonable or unreasonable. You ask, “Can I see it?” and I reply, “Not until you devote your life to praising it. After that, of course.” This pink unicorn could exist, and it might be factual to believe you can only see it after a devoted life of wooing it.

But how should one go about determining whether it is unreasonable? Can the existence of this unicorn be actively demonstrated and repeated without a positive confirmatory consideration? No. Does anything in the fossil record suggest that a single-horned horse ever lived? No. Though these answers do not blatantly suggest its absolute non-existence, these two questions bring some of the errors to light. They show that what I told you about the unicorn doesn’t seem to have the support to back the first claim. So, it is reasonable to not believe that what I’ve suggested is true. These deductions are used when testing the veracity of the previous Biblical claims I presented.

1. An eternal God is the architect and creator of all animate and inanimate matter, and he did so in six consecutive days. This is absolutely demonstrated to a point that could suggest truthfulness. But, it doesn’t. The evidence for evolution is staggering, and to believe in the singular-creation hypothesis one has to credibly discount the theory of evolution; this has yet be accomplished, though many have tried and failed. Again, if the one stating the claim cannot accurately prove that their positive claim is true, it is reasonable to discount it. Evidence against the Biblical claim about the creation of the universe is also in abundance. Scientists understand the most basic elements that make up the universe, they understand how these interact with one another, and how long they last. It is a fact that the evidence points toward the age of the universe being almost 14 billion years, Earths being 3.7 billion. In no way was this a fast process.

2. A massive flood devastated land and life, covering the world completely. Paleontologists and geologists have an incredible understanding of the sedimentary layering of Earth’s crust, thus they are well-equipped at identifying ancient water levels. It has never been the case that all the world’s geologists universally said, “Yes, there was a massive flood, and it encompassed the globe sometime between 10,000 to 6,000 years ago.” Importantly, it should be acknowledged that many cultures hold dear ancient stories about a massive flood, sometimes not encompassing the globe entirely. To be a Christian, one would have to definitively show how all other culture’s claims are wrong and how theirs is correct. The odds are incredibly against any monotheist that says, “No. All those other cultures were wrong. Yes, the global-flood idea has existed for thousands of years but throughout that time, my religion, and its doctrine, has gotten the story 100% right without an ounce of error, even holding strong throughout time as the manuscripts had been translated from one language to another language.” What an arrogant thing to believe.

3. A man (Jesus Christ) was born of a virgin, performed miracles, died and rose to life. This one focuses more on spiritual intervention and not physical interaction. According to the Christian faith, you must blindly believe in God to assume these as true. These could have happened, and a god could have assisted in the completion, but can one reasonably believe this as the case? We know how female humans become pregnant, we know the physical properties of liquid water, and we know what happens to the brain after someone dies; all of which would show these are immensely improbable happenings. If a ration person were to approach this story without knowledge of God, they would cast such claims aside and carry on with their lives. Understand that a healthy amount of confirmation bias (a type of selective thinking whereby one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one’s beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one’s beliefs) is required to believe this foolishness. If you begin with the preconceived notion that Jesus was a living God, nothing that’s explained of Jesus’ nature will ever seem impossible. That is certainly an unreasonable stance to take.

Before considering religious claims as fact, think about whether they align with what is known about the natural universe or not. Think about God, and if he were to exist, and if he was an all-good god, would he have allowed his story-tellers do so in such blatantly and unknowingly untruthfulness? If it’s written in any holy book that God asks one to believe in him without hesitation, I say do not do so. That hesitation is what will keep one free from the Bronze Age, silly beliefs of our ancient ancestors; and by doing so one can live a much more fruitful, enjoyable life.

Why I Am An Atheist

As it goes for all atheist authors and bloggers, it is almost a necessity for one to outline their reasoning behind their rejection of religious faith. As publishing for my next book is underway, I want to solidify why I feel the way that I do, mainly to answer any questions that a theist may present in any form of debate. This is also a topic that I’ve rarely discussed with my closest friends and relatives, and while they’ve endured my witty comments and usage of ridiculing memes on Facebook and Twitter perhaps this will help them understand where I come from and what has drawn me toward that conclusion. So, I present to you, the reader, why it is I am a proud, outspoken and often brutally honest atheist.

1. The magnificent universe and all that exists within – Once I fully understood the scale, it became quite clear that we were actually insignificant and that a loving God wouldn’t have designed the universe in such a way, if we were truly in mind. For instance, the universe is facing an end, as well as our sun. Why set a ticking bomb if you plan on intervening before it explodes?

2. The suffering of humanity – It’s incredibly hard to imagine that a loving, caring God watches over his creation and would turn a blind eye on all that takes place in this vile and unkind landscape. This leaves us with two options: this loving God is capable and willing to allow even his most devout followers to suffer and die in horrible and degrading fashions, or these atrocities are a result of a chaotic, unguided species with flexible morality in the absence of a supreme, loving God. The later of the two is far more probable.

3. The evolution of the biosphere – As Christian, Judaic, and Islamic tradition tells, all of life on Earth stems from the creation process which was undertaken by the Abrahamic deity. My position on this isn’t restricted to these three religious doctrines of course, but as they are the most heavily regard in this era it’s easier to object to those assertions. Why has it become so simple? Because biological science as inadvertently exited a creator God from the equation. Some people are much happier thinking this wonderful planet is a result of God’s actions, but the fact of the matter remains: the diversity is founded in evolution. Personally, it is much more amazing to know that life has the ability to grow, change, and develop as it does without a God instructing it to do so – this position coming after understanding the role of evolution, of course. 99% of all known life that has existed on Earth has either perished or evolved, the plan of an all-knowing God? I think not. Also, all that is known of the evolution of man has also thoroughly debunked any claim about our uniqueness in this diverse world. We ourselves are products of evolution, nothing more and nothing less.

4. Deities come and go, rise and fall – From the beginning of recorded history, thousands of gods have dominated the landscape of humanity, almost all have been abandoned or forgotten. If there had been any credible, testable proof of their existence, perhaps they wouldn’t have perished as they had. Deities were an excellent way for the ignorant, under-educated people of yesterday to explain the world where they dwelled, but that sort of thought has exalted. What remains today are the result of those so unwilling to leave their faith behind and accept the knowledge of those to come.

5. Faith itself – I am not, and never have been, willing to accept unverifiable knowledge without reinforcing evidence. Faith exists only when evidence does not. It is a fallacious, intellectually neglectful position to take. It is amazing that many are so willing to abandon all rational inquiry and substitute such with blind acceptance. It all goes back to how the belief in God makes one feel, not whether there is any real reason to rationally believe. This then makes the belief in God subjective, free from a rational defense. It being subjective only makes it even less likely that the believed God may exist in reality.

Though this list may have been short, these five are the supporting pillars of my atheism. It goes much, much deeper, but from these can a much more elaborate discussion take place. I can assume my position isn’t unique and special, most atheist today have found these reasons to be the most profound. Thank you for reading and keep an eye open for my next book – “Improbable: Is There Any Reason To Believe In God?”

The 12 Steps – An Atheists Critique

Cover of "Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story...
Cover via Amazon

The 12 steps are designed to bring the alcoholic from the slumps of despair by rekindling their faith in themselves through the word of God. Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob – the founders of AA – were Christians through-and-through, believing that by reestablishing their faith in God they could cure their uncontrollable urge to drink. So it is to no surprise that 7 of the 12 steps describe the drinker and their relationship with God throughout the cleansing process.

It must be acknowledged that the Big Book does contain a chapter to the agnostic, which essentially reiterates the same message throughout the rest of the book but designed in a different way. It isn’t an approach to the steps as an agnostic, but describes an appeal to the Christian fundamentals of AA. Again, the authors begin with the idea of God and follow suite, attempting to sway the mind of the undecided.

“Never mind the extremely low success rate, you have God on your side – only if you’re willing to accept his help. Remember though, if you don’t accept his spiritual guidance you may slip back into depression and drink the rest of your life away,” was the impression that I had gotten – even early in the program.

So, below I will describe my progress through the steps and the feelings and emotions I felt along with them. For the reader’s perspective, I feel that I ought to describe my sponsor before I show this information. Every sponsor has a different approach to the steps and perhaps mine may have contributed to my ill-regard of AA, but much of what he had taught me mirrored much of the rest of the active sponsors in my area. Most agreed upon the guidelines, each sponsor had a sponsor, and those sponsors had a sponsor. The reader may get the picture at this point. Nothing changes, everything stays the same.

His name was Chuck. He considered himself a “young Old Guy” – this meaning that he was young in age, but a traditionalist in the sense that he followed the conservative perspective of AA – “The God, Jesus, pull-no-punches, drink-and-get-the-hell-out” initiative. With that being said, the rest will fall into place as I move through these steps.

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

These three steps are actually taken care of the second you walk through the door and get a sponsor. My sponsor wasn’t the same man who had taken me to my first meeting – something I describe in my coming book, “Improbable: Is There Any Reason To Believe In God?” He was a family friend, and I had actually planned to have him work with me but that plan changed when Chuck approached me – being closer in age appealed to me. This consisted of a private meeting – the family friend being a veteran of the program, he had access to AA rooms outside of the designated meeting hours – where in which he read from the Big Book as he was taught to. These three obviously invoked a conversation on God that I inappropriately dodged at that time. I merely agreed to the terms and conditions, feeling that I needed to stay sober.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

By this time, Chuck was my sponsor. What I was instructed to do was compile a list of my wrong-doing – essentially all the immoral things I had done to others while intoxicated. I will admit and I am not proud of this, the list was lengthy. Most of which included arguments, disagreements, and hateful behavior to those who did not deserve it. It wasn’t long ago did I often blame others for my problems. That since has changed immensely. While working this step, my new sponsor and I also discussed God. He asked if I believed. I said, “I don’t know.” He nodded and said, “You should.” Simple and to the point. But I failed to ask the following, “Why?” He then asked me to pray with him. I obliged, though I really saw no sense in doing so.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

These were also simple prayers and agreements between I and my sponsor. He asked God to forgive me for what I’ve done. That was it. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t feel any better. By this point I was maybe 3 months sober, still emotionally broken. By that point though, I had enough of my own wits to know there probably wasn’t a God listening – I never disclosed this information with him. But I also began to wonder, “Where these in-fact defects or simply the outcome of alcohol abuse?” I certainly never acted the way I did while drunk when entirely sober. I was a nice, quite, polite person. I knew my moral boundaries and never crossed them even when I was the most upset. Alcohol lowered that inhibition. There was nothing to ask to be removed. I removed them myself the second I stopped drinking.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

These steps were important. By this point I was 6 months sober, my sponsor thought it was now time I compiled a list of people I’d caused harm to. This was simple enough. I knew who had left my life due to my actions while I was drunk, and those who had also stuck around. This also forced me to question the very meaning behind forgiveness itself. The intent of these steps is to help the alcoholic let go of their transgressions by receiving forgiveness from those we’ve hurt. But was that necessary? Nothing was going to be different. Either they would forgive me or not, there wasn’t going to be a massive rekindling of friendships. I had moved on, those others had moved on, it would have been a waste of time. Don’t get me wrong, I still today feel sorry of my actions, but I’ve learned to live with them. Needless to say, I obliged my sponsors requests. Some amends went well, others didn’t happen at all. Those who were close accepted – though I knew they had already accepted once I made to decision to change my life. The others may have felt there to be no reason because they were in a different place without the need to hear from me. So be it, and I could understand why. If anything, these steps taught me to treat those around me with even more respect from that period on instead of comforting my ill-feelings of yesterday.

10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

These remaining steps were filler-time for me. Step 11 basically instructs us to ask for forgiveness when needed. Again, asking to be absolved of an imaginary illness. Step 11 pertained to the same notion, instructing us to pray when feeling bad until we felt better, ergo “God must have made me feel better.” I wasn’t buying that gambit. To my amazement, my sponsor really skipped 10 and 11 all together, and one day approached me, saying, “I think you’ve completed every step but the last. Have you felt anything differently?” I said, “Yes, I know what I’ve done wrong and I’m determined to never do it again.” He then said, “You’ve completed the steps.” That was it. There was no spiritual awakening, only existing was a moral epiphany and an agreement with oneself to change. Any one can do that, specifically without a God. It still left me wondering why so many needed God to aid them throughout their sobriety.

He then told me he was proud of me, and that not many complete the steps. Perhaps this was because they relied to heavily on an imaginary friend? Was my success achievable because I acknowledged my isolation to my issue and that I was alone in my sobriety. I knew this was the case for me.

Answering Those Questions…

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had opportunity to sit and discuss my atheism with a wide-range of people, from friends to family to strangers. Throughout these occasions, I’ve found there to be a number of the same questions being asked, so I thought, “Since everyone seems to ask the same questions, why not make my answers available to everyone?” So, I will go about answering the questions that we atheists always seem to be asked.

1. So, you don’t believe in God?

I do not believe in Yahweh, Elohim, Allah, a divine Jesus, Zeus, Thor, or any other culturally driven deity. If you break down the specifics of each of those deities and compare what is known through scientific endeavors, you’d be hard-pressed to find any empirical means one could draw any testable and demonstrable similarities.

2. Well, don’t you believe in something?

I believe in many things, but in the supernatural I do not. I don’t believe I need to have a close relationship with any metaphysical beings to experience life in a different spectrum. I can feel, see, taste, and smell all that I need to live a fruitful life. I believe in life and living it is important to me. I do not feel as though I should waste this bit of time that I’ve got on a wishful limb to appease a fear or suppress some unanswerable questions we all ask ourselves every day.

3. Then how do you get something from nothing?

There is a significant difference between the philosophical definition of nothing versus the scientific understanding of nothing. I think it is tremendously difficult for us to comprehend the scientific definition of nothing. The philosophical definition offers hope, a flexibility. And it’s also important to ask what you mean by nothing. Do you mean nothing in material from, or do you mean nothing in the way of a vast, empty, bottomless, timeless void? Outside of our universe, we may never be able to answer the question of how ours came to be. Certainly many theoretical physicists are on the right path and may very well show how it may have been possible – many even think they’ve got an understanding of how this all came to be. If a theist wants to ask how something came from nothing, I believe they’ve got quite of bit of work ahead of them demonstrating why there is something rather than nothing, in theological terms that is.

4. Then why are we here? What is the meaning of life?

Simply, we are products of an evolutionary process – a process that is forever changing until we as a race are extinct. We are descendants of ancient apes, as are our ape cousins which can be found throughout Africa and Asia today. It has been theorized that we are in our present form because of naturalistic and later cultural pressures. Our physical differences, our brain capacity, our thought processes, interests and emotions are all products of those pressures. We are “hard-wired” to be who we are, which also explains why people born in America may adopt Christianity and those born in India will adopt Hinduism. As for the question about meaning, we are autonomous beings from birth and can choose to stay that way. We can adopt the idea that there is an overlapping meaning that we’re all on a quest to get, but some of us can find meaning in the things we do. I don’t believe in an all-encompassing meaning to humanity, and I often find those who are privileged – as well as theistic – ask that question. It’s a very subjective thought, but if they wish for me to answer that question for them, I would like them to answer this question: “If there is a meaning of life defined by your deity, what is the meaning of life for those who starve to death at such a young age or are inflicted with a debilitating and terminal illness so early in life? If the meaning of their life was that it would ended so abruptly and terrifyingly, why would any deity worry about yours?

5. So, how do you explain life on Earth?

Life on Earth is certainly diverse, full of majesty and wonder. Our ancient ancestors also understood this fact, but failed to see our relationship with the rest of the world and sadly separated our species entirely – our higher intelligence also gave us the ability to hold dominion over all life and land. Early humans were capable of construction using organic material, so it shouldn’t to ones surprise that those humans may have also seen design in biological life, as though they were the things of an unseen creator. That was once an idea, but that idea has been falsified through the committed dedication of those in the biological sciences. Today, the evidence is clear. With that being said, if a theist chooses to claim that evolution is false, they have an immense amount of work ahead of them describe how that isn’t so.

6. If God doesn’t exist for you, how can you be moral? or How do you know the difference between right and wrong?

Empathy has an evolutionary beginning. To genuinely care for one another in a physical and emotional way, going out of ones way to help fellow humans, and a general empathy for the weak and the lame are all aspects of morality, and each of those allow our species to continue without a hitch. Our higher intelligence also gives us the ability to develop ethics – how to apply morality to our everyday functions. I and most others define morality as caring for the well-being of others. I don’t want others to suffer, and neither do I. I know what suffering feels like even in its most simplest of forms, something that I try not to inflict to the best of my ability. But I don’t consciously chose to do right or wrong, it happens innately and without hesitation. Of course, cultural pressures also define our ethics, but that is another discussion. Our inborn empathetic nature is where it all begins.

7. So you don’t believe in an afterlife?

Well, what would suggest that an afterlife exists? An afterlife would mean that our consciousness is a transcendent, unseen, and undetectable force. This, of course, this isn’t the case. Scientists understand that who we are as people only exists because of our functioning brain. When we die, our personalities die as a result of our dead brain. In the infancy of our species, humans didn’t know this. They had known life ended, and often correlated breathing with life – the meaning of the word “spirit” has roots in this understanding. Today, it boils down to life. We love it, we love to see it, and we love to create it. We love to interact with the natural world and we also love it when the natural world interacts with us. Why wouldn’t humans be upset to know that ends one day? Most don’t want this life to end, so any religious belief that promotes the idea of everlasting life seems appealing. We have to be weary about the difference between a personal truth and an empirical truth. Someone may personally know that an afterlife exists, but the evidence would suggest the otherwise.

8. Why are you trying to discredit everything I believe?

I have passion for truth – more importantly, an evidence-based truth. Once one understands how the natural world functions, the need for a God dissipates. That then only leaves room for a personal God, one who created everything but loves everyone personally. But most often, if someone realizes its improbable that a God created the biosphere, this world, and the universe, it’s just as improbable that a personal, loving God also exists. I have a right to share that message and I’m not sorry that it doesn’t jive with most theological beliefs. Perhaps if my approach shakes someones faith, maybe that person ought to re-evaluate the foundations of that faith and decide for themselves whether it is likely that what they’ve believed has always been an untruth, sold to them by their peers. It’s not my goal to prove personal religious beliefs to be wrong, facts do a well enough job of it.

That will do it for the time being. Stay tuned for future posts and information on my upcoming book “Improbable: Is There Any Reason To Believe In God?”