Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Coding: You Should Learn It | Geeks are Sexy Technology News

Things have totally changed. We live in a world now that all people who work in scientific fields need to have at least a rudimentary understanding about how to code computer programs or apps. There isn't much of that in my children's education at their school. Looks like I'll have to make up the difference at home.

Coding: You Should Learn It | Geeks are Sexy Technology News

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Debunking Christianity: The Catholic Church Is Lying to This Day: Was Peter the First Pope?

There is truly a God! How else can you explain John Loftus actually posts an article that I have to mostly agree with. Wonders never cease.

In the wake of Pope Benedict resigning and the desire for a new one to replace him, we need to consider the evidence that Peter was the first Pope. But as Austin Cline argues there isn't any. Given that the early Catholic Church lied with forged documents like the Donation of Constantine and the Testimonium Flavianum (inserted text into Josephus's Antiquities of the Jews concerning Jesus), any claim of theirs, including the one that the earliest disciples were martyrs for Jesus, must have evidence for it.

Loftus over reaches his claim that the Catholic Church forged that text in Josephus. I mean the whole passage is not a proven forgery nor can any prove that there was malicious intent involved or what the motivation involved at all. His point that the Catholic Church did lie about a few things is well taken is true. The thing is all the evidence of forgeries has squat to do with the Bible or whether or not the claims of Christianity are true.

In fact, I'll betcha in the Vatican records themselves the priests who have access to them already know Peter was not the first Pope, that there was no such office. So the Catholic Church is lying to us this very day.

I don't know what is in the Vatican records. but what I do know is that no one in the Bible would agree that there is such an office as a "Pope" and that Peter did not think of himself that way according to the Bible.

It's just another case of liars for Jesus, something that both Richard Carrier and I have documented before. It's never seen more clearly than in the Catholic Church cover-up of pedophile priests. All they can do is stonewall, obfuscate and lie in defense of the indefensible, whatever it takes. They have lost all credibility when it comes to their faith. None is left, none.

 Hold on there. It's irrational to think that covering up pedophile priests is the same a saying that Peter was the first Pope without being able to prove that.  Both arte bad but have nothing to do with one another.

 But then that's what we see when it comes to faith in general, no matter what the religion. With faith, almost anything can be believed. With faith, people can believe without any evidence at all. With faith, people can even believe against the overwhelming evidence. In fact, with faith, people can even justify lying to defend what they need to believe. It's pathetic. Yes, it's THAT bad.

Again, Loftus demonstrates that he does not know what "Faith" is. And if this is the kind of faith he had when he thought he was a Christian, he was doing it wrong and has traded one delusion for another. Yes, it truly is pathetic.

I dare say that if Christians went back in time to the start-up of the early church they would almost all blast its rise as nothing more than a number of harmful pious cultic frauds, by leaders who sought power over others.

Judging the early Christians by the kind of clergy that Loftus himself was? Not good, Mr Loftus, not good. I don't think that Loftus' accusations apply to the writers of the Bible, nor can Loftus show that it does. Before Christianity became the dominant religion of the Roman Empire there was precious little power to be had. I mean for about 300 hundred years from the beginning becoming a Christian leader would not gain you power or wealth but suffering and  death. 

Let's take a step back and look at Loftus' argument. Let's say he's right. The Catholic Church lied about Josephus writing about Jesus. It lied about Peter being the first Pope. Transubstantiation is wrong. So what? Even if Loftus is right about faith, and he is not, it matters nothing about whether or not the claims in the Bible are true or not. Loftus being right would not make the Bible right however it does make the Catholic Church wrong.

Debunking Christianity: The Catholic Church Is Lying to This Day: Was Peter the First Pope?
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The 50 Smartest People of Faith | Reflections

Dr Kenneth Samples has posted an interesting link to an article listing 50 people who are intelligent beyond any reasonable question. Check out the link. My one question to those who reject God for what they think are intellectual grounds: Do you think you are more intelligent or more well-informed than they? I don't think you are.

The 50 Smartest People of Faith | Reflections
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Monday, February 25, 2013

Parting Shot: 'SpiderSense' Suit Allows Wearer To Do At Least One Thing A Spider Can - ComicsAlliance | Comic book culture, news, humor, commentary, and reviews

Now this is cool.

Built by Victor Mateevitsi, the SpiderSense suit has small robotic arms packaged in modules with microphones that send out and receive ultrasonic reflections from objects. When the ultrasound detects an object moving closer to one of the microphones, the arms exert a growing pressure on the body, alerting the suit's wearer.
Such a suit could be awesome for blind people and for cyclist and for many other uses. I think that it could even be used by law enforcement and the military. I want one. 

Parting Shot: 'SpiderSense' Suit Allows Wearer To Do At Least One Thing A Spider Can - ComicsAlliance | Comic book culture, news, humor, commentary, and reviews
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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Debunking Christianity: Does God Really Show That He Loves Us?

Recently, John Loftus posted an article recently in which he makes an attempts to argue that Jesus' sacrifice does not show that God loves us. He says that if God really loved us he would make himself easier to find scientifically because the Bible is not good  enough evidence and would not allow "so much intensive ubiquitous gratuitous suffering in the world". As usual Loftus makes a great many bad assumptions demonstrating that he has no idea what he is talking about. Jesus did not just die for us. He died for his enemies. All of us at one time were his enemies - hostile and hated God. Unfortunately, John Loftus is still like that and despite what he thinks - always was. Despite our evil, Jesus died to redeem us - we were so encumbered and enslaved that we didn't even know we needed a savior. Loftus wrote this granting that Jesus died for us, but what he has missed is that he can't quantify nor demonstrate what "gratuitous" suffering is. Just how much is too much? He doesn't see the point that God does not just allow evil things to happen. God also restricts and contains evil. Evil is on a leach in Jesus' hand. Jesus not only saves us from sin, but without his sacrifice and changing hearts and minds throughout history, He has prevented much evil.  Go ahead and a laugh. Read Loftus' comment below. The real interesting thing is that it is those who reject Christ are the ones who are drowning and they do not want rescue.

This is how God shows that he loves us. We're supposed to believe God expressed his love by sending his son to die for us based on 2nd, 3rd, 4th handed testimony found in manuscripts dated to the 4th century AD from a pre- scientific superstitious people in a remote part of the ancient world, who included forged texts in their holy book that reinforced their hindsight conclusions, who destroyed other texts that disagreed, and who subsequently killed off anyone who didn't accept those beliefs, despite the fact that this same God allows so much intensive ubiquitous gratuitous suffering in the world? Nope, not a chance. Not even close. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

Debunking Christianity: Does God Really Show That He Loves Us?

Why is the Universe Fine-Tuned for Life?
Video by Guillermo Gonzales - Apologetics 315

Here is an awesome lecture by Dr Guillermo Gonzales answering the question about what the fine tuning argument for the existence of God is and why it deserves careful consideration!

Why is the Universe Fine-Tuned for Life? <br/>Video by Guillermo Gonzales - Apologetics 315
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High Five of the Day - God and the Applicability of Mathematics | Reasonable Faith

In his recent debate with Dr Rosenberg,  William Lane Craig touched an argument for God's existence using the applicability of mathematics to the natural world. On the his website, Dr Craig was asked the questions:

Isn't it the case that mathematics could, and in my opinion does seem to be, just a useful fiction as you mentioned in your debate? You say something along the lines of "this wouldn't explain how nature seems to be written in the language of mathematics". Isn't it also the case that if mathematical concepts are useful fictions, then they would describe (accurately if well thought out) the universe as apprehended by our perceptions? Shouldn't we expect that our useful fictions would be useful precisely because they accurately describe our observations?
I have thought that perhaps I am missing the point of the argument though. Perhaps it is the case that you aren't saying God must exist because our useful fictions, particularly those of mathematics describing reality, would just be happy coincidence. Indeed, what kind of coincidence would it be that our tools were designed for the purpose they serve? Perhaps you are making the point that without God the universe wouldn't necessarily exhibit these extremely logical properties.
Maybe I'm just completely wrong headed on this. Could you please set me straight?

Here is a quote from Dr William Lane Craig's Answer:

Your question is about the argument from the applicability of mathematics to the physical world. Question of the Week #277 is about the only place where I have reflected on this question, and I refer you there. Again, it was reading Rosenberg’s own book that prompted me to put this into the form of the theistic argument. For mathematics lies at the foundation of physics, at whose altar Rosenberg bows. Given his scientism (epistemological naturalism), he cannot dismiss applied mathematics as illusory. Rosenberg also emphasizes that naturalism simply cannot tolerate cosmic coincidences. But then what explanation can the naturalist offer for why mathematics is applicable to the physical world, that is to say, for why the physical world is imbued with the complex mathematical structure that physics discovers. Naturalism founders in this regard, whereas theism has an easy answer: God created the universe on the mathematical structure that He had in mind.

I think reading the full response is  a good idea. I have to say that I have often thought that the fact that we can use mathematics to model the universe is good evidence that there is a rational mind that not only brought the universe into being but holds it together. I've been fascinated by the fact that so many physical constants contain numbers and multiples of  Pi, 2, and 3. It seems beyond rationality to concluded this is just a coincidence not a fingerprint or a signature.

God and the Applicability of Mathematics | Reasonable Faith
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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Answering Muslims: James White: Why Muslims Reject the Gospel

David Wood posted this lecture by James White. Dr White discusses the reasons why Muslims reject the Gospel

Answering Muslims: James White: Why Muslims Reject the Gospel

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

One of My Favorite Scenes From The Simpsons

explore-blog: A female soldier in a combat zone... | .mattfraction

I found the following trailer and verbage on Tumblr. Very important stuff!
A female soldier in a combat zone is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire. By official estimates from The Department of Defense, 19,000 violent sexual crimes occurred in the military in 2011 alone. Sexual assault is grossly under-reported in the military. In 2011, 3,191 assaults were reported when its likely that somewhere between 19,000 and 22,000 assaults occurred.

Silent No More – women in the military speak out against rape in a groundbreaking investigative documentary, all the more stirring and important as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Feminine Mystique.

explore-blog: A female soldier in a combat zone... | .mattfraction
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Nicolaus Copernicus - Heliocentric Model [HQ] - YouTube

Nicolaus Copernicus
Nicolaus Copernicus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Today, Google released a Doodle in honor of Nicolaus Copernicus' 540th birthday. Here is a video of that Doodle. It's an illustration of Copernicus' Heliocentric model of what he thought was the universe. Really amazing.

Nicolaus Copernicus - Heliocentric Model [HQ] - YouTube
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Mark Waid Announces Free 'Gender Through Comics' Online Course - ComicsAlliance | Comic book culture, news, humor, commentary, and reviews

A great opportunity to take a college level class online has come up. The course covers the ways gender identity and roles have been depicted throughout American culture explored through comic books! I think I will definitely be signing up for this.

Mark Waid Announces Free 'Gender Through Comics' Online Course - ComicsAlliance | Comic book culture, news, humor, commentary, and reviews

Don't think that comic books can be used to explore complex issues like this? Check out this article by  Andrew Wheeler who traces how depictions of women in X-Men changed during the many years Chris Claremont wrote the books. 

Mutant Women of Earth: How Chris Claremont Reinvented the Female Superhero
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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Debunking Christianity: What Will Christians Do In Heaven For All Eternity?

There is something I just don't get about the mind of an apostate: Why do they think they only started thinking when they left God?  I mean did Loftus ever stop to ask the question he is is considering in this post? I know some people like apostates claim that when they asked other Christians questions like this they were shamed and told that it was disrespectful to question God. I know there are some people who don't really think and that is wrong but even if you are one of the laity this is no excuse. Church leaders even have less excuse. Loftus claims to be a former pastor and claims to be education in theology and philosophy. What was his excuse when people in his flock came to him questions like this? How did he answer this question for himself? Obviously he would not have answered it the same way he does now. Some of his "scenarios" he outlines in this post tells us he has no idea what he is talking about. Did he ever know?

Christians concoct many different scenarios about what they'll do in heaven for all eternity. None of them make good sense. Will they eternally play golf? Baseball? How about hockey, football, or even rugby? Boxing anyone? What about bear hunting? Hey, guys, how about having everlasting sex with a harem of 70 virgins? Oh, sorry, wrong religion. Regardless, what if YOU were part of a harem of 70 guys for some nymphomaniac in heaven who is just as ugly as YOU are? More seriously, what about being in a prostate position eternally worshiping God? This just seems boring to most Christians, that's all. I can hear some of the saints in heaven now:
Hey, God, can I get up and do something productive? Do you sincerely not want me to do anything now that I'm here? Doing productive activities is self-fulfilling and makes me happy. Let me do something, please, anything. Can I at least get up and stretch, or go catch up with the "few" family and friends I have that made it here? If nothing else, your wonderfulness, can I go to the bathroom? ;-)
So most Christians envision they'll be given other worlds to rule over by God when they die depending on how well they behaved here on earth, even though I can hear murmurs of dissatisfaction: "Hey God, you said you forgave all of our sins so why does that guy get a bigger world to rule over than me?" However, if believers are given their own worlds to rule over, just who do they think they'll rule over? Will these creatures have free will and will they also rebel? Will the ruler of each of these worlds have to be crucified as Jesus was in order to save them from the wrath of God? I can't imagine believers signing up for a future excruciating crucifixion when they signed up to be in heaven. But if the creatures to be ruled over don't rebel then Jesus was a failure as a ruler over his world. I know I know, "ours is not to question why, ours is but to do and die."

If Loftus wasn't leading so many people astray by letting them think their doubts and skepticism actually have weight his lack of biblical knowledge would be laughable. He paid lip service to the fact that various people would answer the question differences, and then pretended that Christians don't really know anything although the Bible give us firm facts about things we can know for sure about heaven. Also I'd like to know how bear hunting is "productive".  

1. We will be like the angels - so no marriage according to Jesus (Matthew ). Sorry, Muslims and Mormons.

29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, - Matthew 22:29-31

2. No suffering. No pain. No sin.

3. No way is it going to be boring, exploring the new created order. For example, will there be entropy? What will be the limitations to our new bodies be?

4. We won't be gods of our own planets. Sorry, Mormons.

5, Even if we spend all of our time prostrate before the throne of God, in worship and adoration - it won't be boring because everytime we look at the throne we will see something different.

6. If we spend an eternity in worship of God, it won't be enough, God is worthy of more. 

7. Whatever we do in heaven it will be be better to what apostates and people who reject Jesus is going to be doing. 

Debunking Christianity: What Will Christians Do In Heaven For All Eternity?
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“Seed” the TV series | True Freethinker

I love science fiction and Mariano has pointed out  a new series that will be coming out soon. It looks right up my alley.

..SEED is a brand new science fiction series unlike anything you have ever seen before. It has the mystery and intrigue of Lost combined with the political commentary and sci-fi appeal of shows like Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica, mixed with the paranormal/alien themes explored in The X-Files....

“Seed” the TV series | True Freethinker

Thursday, February 14, 2013

FacePlant of the Day - Debunking Christianity: Five Definitive Answers When Christians Say We Never Were Christians

I am actually glad to see Loftus attempt to try to deal with the question of whether or not a person can be a truly born-again Christian and then fall away. from being a Christian. The technical term is "Apostasy". As many of Loftus' arguments often do, this one turns into a faceplant. The important thing is to recognize Biblically speaking what an apostate is and what an apostate is now. I will be exploring that in responding to Loftus' answers.

When I first went online I was repeatedly told by Christians that I was never a Christian. At first I got upset because it was personal with me. In my mind it was as if they were calling me a liar. I answered pretty much as former pastor's wife Theresa did right here, by trying to express my devotion to Christ and his church. Over the years I have developed better answers. Here are the five definitive answers to such drivel:

Take note of how emotional Loftus' response is on this. He interprets the very idea that maybe he was never a Christian as a personal attack. It isn't. It's either true or it's not. If you once believed and then decide you don't believe it shows that you have not been born-again. In John 3, Jesus tells us that becoming one of His followers is like being born as second time. Just like natural birth, being  "born from above" cannot be undone. Once you are born, you can die but you cannot be unborn. Same thing when you become a true Christian. There are so scriptures to back this up. Many of them will be coming up in this post.

1) What does this have to do with my arguments? If was never a Christian how does that affect your judgment of them? If some skeptics were never Christians does it mean you don't have to take their arguments seriously? If you must do so with them, why is this an issue when it comes to me?

If you don't want the validity of your conversion to be questioned, then don't use it to explain why anyone should listen to you about why we should leave God. I mean really think about it. Loftus and others use their past experiences in Christianity to give their arguments weight that they know what we believe and why we should not believe it because they once believed it too. This is a really a terrible argument. Atheists really should not use it. If you want to argue that a skeptic who becomes a Christian was never a skeptic, fine,. The Bible teaches Predestination. Therefore a true Christian was called to be a Christian when God created everything.

2) If you think this of me then that's just one of the delusions you have. There are many others. ;-)

True. I have many delusions So do all of us. That is why we need Jesus to help us.  Get help;

3) So let me get this straight, your God promised to save me if I believed, and I did, and he didn't keep his promise? What does that say about your God?

A better question is what does it say about the apostate? God promised that if we believe that God will save us. If God did not save the Apostate, maybe the Apostate really didn't believe. You only thought you believed. The parable of the sower (Matthew 13) really is applies here.

Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” - Matthew 13:3-9

 Maybe Loftus and other apostates are rocky places, shallow soil, or had no root.

4) I actually don't think any Christian has real faith, so at least I honestly admit I'm a non-believer.

So Loftus is agreeing that when he was a "Christian" he didn't have real faith. 

 As I said before in a letter to Christians who claim that deep down I really believe:
You think you believe but you really don't. You see, your behavior itself tells on you. You don't live every waking hour of every day the way you would if you truly believed. I don't even have to know you, but if you're a man you probably peek at pornography on the web--say it isn't so? You don't give your money to Christian causes like you would if you truly believed. You don't pray enough. You don't read the Bible like you should, or evangelize as you should. You're not truly grateful for the purported sacrifice Jesus made for you that saved you from hell. Nor do you really care about the fate of unbelievers who are heading to hell. If you truly believed unbelievers will be eternally punished for their unbelief then your whole life would be radically different. So your behavior tells on you. You do not believe. Underneath all of the protestations to the contrary you simply do not believe. You are in denial. You deny that you are an atheist.

You probably have someone in your life that rubs you wrong—a relative?—that you simply cannot forgive, and you may even dislike someone to the point where you may even hate them. Some Christians are even having extra-marital affairs right now, or they are pilfering from the church treasury, or beating their wives. Are you? You have guilt running through your veins for all of this and yet you claim that you stand forgiven in the eyes of God—is that not a contradiction?

You claim to believe you should or should not do this or that, and you even claim there is a Holy Spirit who only helps Christians, but you continue to behave as you actually believe, which is not much better than non-Christian neighbors you know.

If I believed there was a brick wall in front of me, I wouldn't walk into it. But your life is nothing but walking through your self proclaimed wall of beliefs. You daily walk through that wall because you really do not believe there is a wall where you claim it is!

So don't tell me I really believe. I do not. It's you who are in denial. You simply are going through the motions because of the social benefits of the people whom you respect and whom are your helpers through life. You need some father godlike figure in the sky so you can feel secure and comforted both here and in the afterlife, so you believe this father figure in your mind. But he just doesn't exist, and deep down you know this.
The bottom line is that there are people who claim to be Christians but don't do live up to what the Bible says we should. So what? That does not describe all Christians at all. There are some people doing all the things that Loftus says that Christians don't  do  but should do. God is not holding you accountable for what anyone else did. You aren't going to hell because of  the sin of someone else. You have more than enough of your own.

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. - Romans 1:18-20

5) But more than all of this I actually agree. I was never a Christian if being a Christian means there is a God, that he sent Jesus to atone for my sins, that he was raised from the grave and that I'll spend eternity in heaven for believing. So as I wrote in more detail:
There are two perspectives to describe our lives as former Christians. On the one hand, from our former Christian perspective, we can describe ourselves as having truly been Christians, in that we experienced salvation, regeneration, the Holy Spirit, and answered prayer. We had accepted Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins, and believed he bodily arose from the dead and would return to earth in the parousia. We repented from every known sin, again and again. We confessed “Jesus is Lord.” We prayed the non-Biblical sinner’s prayer (where is that in the Bible?) by inviting Jesus to come to live inside us. We thought we had a personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ just like you do now. We tried to live a spiritual life in gratitude for God’s grace by reading the Bible and obeying what we read in it. So we evangelized, tithed, attended worship services, Bible studies, and became leaders in our respective churches.

Some of us were ministers, pastors,and preachers. Others were Sunday school teachers, superintendents, elders, deacons, and/or Bible study leaders. I taught people who are now in ministry at a Bible College. There are at least three men presently in the ministry because of my influence.

 More is necessary. You can lead people to God and be  used of God but you yourself can be lost.

26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. - 1 Corinthians 9:26-27

For you to reject our testimony you will probably have to reject the testimony of someone you know right now in your church whom you look up to as a Christian who may reject Christianity in the future. The problem is that you just may not personally know someone like that. But the chances are that you will. Then what will you think?

Simple answer: I do know apostates. I pray for them. I continue to love them. I continue to live after the calling that God has on my life regardless as to if they abandon theirs.

On the other hand, from our present skeptical perspective, the Christian faith is false and based upon ancient superstitions. We believe we were deluded about it. We were never true Christians in the sense that there is no truth to Christianity. If being a Christian means that we had a personal relationship with God-in-Jesus Christ, then we never had such a relationship, for such a supernatural being is based upon non-historical mythology. There is no divine forgiveness because there is no divine forgiver. There was no atonement because Jesus did not die for the world’s sins. There was no God-man in the flesh to believe in. Our petitionary prayers were nothing but wishful hoping. And we believe this is true about your claim to be a Christian too. You are not a Christian, either, because there is no Christ, no Messiah, no God-in-the-flesh, no Holy Spirit regeneration, no devil and no heaven to go to when you die.
Or you just traded one delusion for another. 


I have an additional answer to this question that some others don't have. Discounting the potential slanderous accusation that William Lane Craig levels at me in this video excerpt, he thinks I was a Christian because he still has hopes I'll return to the fold. Since he thinks real apostasy is impossible, by saying my rejection of Christianity is only temporary he's saying I was a Christian at one time. So let him be my witness against anyone who claims I never believed in the first place. Take it up with Craig if you think that. He knew me when I was a believer and his testimony is that I really believed. The problem is that if anyone has ever committed the unforgivable sin then I have. I wrote a detailed post on the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit about six years ago. According to Jesus I can never be saved now even if I did turn to him in faith and repentance.

I think this pretty much covers it. Q.E.D.
I think William Lane Craig is correct. Maybe the Holy Spirit revealed to him that God will call Loftus back from his backslidden condition. Loftus does not know what blaspheming the Holy Spirit means just like he does not really understand the Bible. I've seen God do this very thing in other people's lives. I hope Craig is right then Loftus will not be going to hell and maybe used by God to turn others to God. He has a lot to make up for. We all do. 

This will help to clarify things.

Debunking Christianity: Five Definitive Answers When Christians Say We Never Were Christians
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Quote of the Week: Charles Darwin | Reflections

Dr Kenneth Samples posted the following interesting quote from a letter written by Charles Darwin.
With me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?
Charles Darwin to W. Graham, July 3, 1881, in The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, ed. Francis Darwin (1887; repr., Boston: Elibron), 1:285.

Quote of the Week: Charles Darwin | Reflections

This quote is interesting enough given that Darwin did indeed have doubts of his theory. Samples also posted a really good essay on that just a few days ago. Read it a the following link: Darwin's Doubts.
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Monday, February 11, 2013

FacePlant of the Day - Debunking Christianity: Christianity and the Virtue of Unreason

I'm simply amazed that many Atheists can't seem grasp the point that God does not expect or condone mindlessly accepting anything. I found this interesting post on Debunking Christianity where J.M. Green attempts to explain that the Bible teaches you to turn your brain off. In this article I see very little understanding of what "Faith" is and what we should remember  is that if you see the Bible saying two different things, then instead of stopping at crying "Contradiction" and conclude that the Bible is nonsense you should at least consider the possibility that you don't understand one or both of those passages.

"I can't believe that!" said Alice.
"Can't you?" the Queen said in a pitying tone. "Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes."
Alice laughed. "There's not use trying," she said: "one can't believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
Alice in Wonderland
Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
John 20:29 (ESV)
The article starts off attempting that Jesus was telling us that it's okay to hold conflicting things as true like the "advice" Alice was getting in Wonderland. Jesus was not talking about believing something despite conflicting evidence therefore this comparison is a straw man at best and a lie at worst. 

Recently I was talking with a friend about her experience as an atheist who has relocated to (according to the Pew Research Center) the 3rd most religious state in the U.S. – South Carolina. She said the thing that struck her was how much pride religious people seem to have in taking things on faith. “It’s like the less evidence that exists for a certain belief--the greater their triumph for still managing to believe it.” She said. “It seriously amazes me. The less you think, the more virtuous you are.”

I agree that  there are Christians who do not reason about their faith. They don't think critically and don't know what they believe and haven't a clue about what they believe and why they should believe it. This is not how it should be. The Bible does not tell us you are more virtuous if you don't think.

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. - Act 17:11

So look the church in Berea was honored for thinking critically. They were honored because they checked Paul's preaching and teaching against the Jewish Scriptures. Now I am sure people will argue that there isn't a way to vet the standard they were using but that ignores the fact that had Paul preached teachings that conflicted with the Hebrew scriptures, the Bereans would automatically know Paul was wrong. It was evidence.

Even though it is somewhat shocking when we encounter someone who blatantly rejects reason and evidence, in favor of a subjective belief, fundamentalist Christianity does much to foster this mentality.

Let's see if Green can back this up. He is claiming that in order to be a Christian, you have to reject reason and evidence. This is simply not true.

The John 20:29 quote above, has Jesus placing a higher value on those who believe without evidence, than those who are able to verify by sensory evidence.

Let’s state plainly what Jesus was saying: “To believe based on what you can personally verify is ok, but if you make a leap of faith and believe based on hearsay, then you are truly blessed.” This is some of the worst advice that one could give, seeing as how all sorts of nonsense from bogus cancer cures, to Nigerian email scams, rely on people’s unquestioning acceptance of claims without proof. Essentially, Jesus is placing a spiritual premium on being gullible and naïve. Credulous acceptance of any and all claims is a virtue. Mindlessness is next to godliness. P. T. Barnum’s sucker-born-ever-minute had just been granted sainthood.

That does not plainly nor accurately represent Jesus' words.  Jesus was talking to one of his Apostles, Thomas -  who walked with Jesus, knew Jesus died, and was talking to Jesus after the Resurrection. That really changes the context of Jesus' words. Here we have a man who predicted his own death and Resurrection. Thomas and those first generation Christians all had a lot of extraordinary evidence. However Jesus is not telling us that those who will believe and not have had the opportunity to put our fingers in our his wounds will not have other evidence to draw on.

The Old Testament also promotes this attitude, as evidenced in this popular Bible verse:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
Proverbs 3:5 (ESV)
The Old Testament is not promoting an attitude against critical thinking but instead regarding how unreliable our own senses and reasoning powers - something that many atheists would readily admit. 

But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble. - Proverbs 4:19

Everyone is wicked. Without God we are all in darkness. We stumble around in that darkness. That is why it is a bad idea to lean on your own understanding.  It does not say "Don't lean on evidence."

In the New Testament, the writers of the Gospels shrewdly muddy the waters by claiming that people refused to believe despite witnessing Jesus performing miracles. This of course, goes hand in hand with the Christian refrain that atheists know God exists, but simply choose to deny this. Why provide evidence if some people aren’t going to believe anyway?

The miracles are indeed evidence. Even Jews who hated Jesus admitted that Jesus performed miracles. They tried to explain them away. I'm not just talking about Jesus' contemporaries but also the writers of the Talmud in the medieval times and other secular ancient sources. The evidence is the there. In Romans, Paul does tell us that atheist suppress the knowledge that God exists but also why  the rest of the Gospel that distinguishes Christianity from other religions is rejected is told to us by Jesus.

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. - John 3:16-21

In Luke 16, Jesus tells the story of a rich man who ends up in the torments of Hell and begs Abraham to send someone back from the dead to warn his brothers so they don’t end up there too.

Abraham replies that the man’s brothers have the writings of Moses and the prophets, and that should be enough. The rich man, recognizing the value of evidence in persuading people, insists that if someone is raised from the dead that will make his brothers take notice. Abraham replies that even then, the brothers would still not be swayed. In other words, why give them evidence, if they won’t believe anyway.

The writings of Moses and the prophets are evidence. It's just so bright that the rich man's brothers would cower away - like Green does. Abraham's words in the parable are proven true every  time someone rejects Christs - after all Jesus returned from the dead and they refuse to listen.

Of course Abraham’s assertion that a book is all the evidence needed is ridiculous, but this is how it works in the fantasyland of Christianity. Christians have a Bible filled with miraculous, unprovable claims and they believe those claims, simply because they are found between the covers of that book.

There are plenty of provable claims in the Bible.  For example the Bible makes claims about people, places, and events that can be shown to really have existed. Had nothing ever been shown to be true, then Green and others might have something. Truth is saying that there is no evidence of the Bible being true is a lie

The Apostle Paul does his part to promote evidence-free belief:
For we walk by faith, not by sight.
2 Corinthians 5:7 (ESV)
Actually Paul is quoting the Old Testament and he is not saying  that faith mean belief with absence of evidence.

And, let us not forget the unnamed author of Hebrews who devotes the whole of chapter 11 to the praise of mindless belief.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)
Who needs evidence when belief itself becomes the proof?

Green is suggesting that something can only be real if you can see it and has just thrown science under the bus.  Ever seen a proton?  Electron? What color are they? How do they smell? What texture do they have? According to Green's "logic" nothing that you can't answer these questions about exists for real. I'm not willing to do that. I want to know how many people are going to comment that Green does not know what "proof" means like they do whenever a theist has the audacity to speak?

In a revealing admission, after enumerating the assorted exploits of the heroes of the Jewish faith, the author of Hebrews says:
And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised,
Hebrews 11:39 (ESV)

Get that folks? All these people died (some of them in horrible ways) without ever seeing the result of what their faith promised them. The golden carrot on the stick dangled just on the other side of death, as it still does. And, since Father Abraham doesn’t like the idea of sending anyone back from the dead to verify the state of the afterlife for us, you just have to devote your life to your religion and its invisible god, in the hope – or should I say in ‘faith’ that there will be a life after death, and that heavenly carrot will be waiting for you.

I wonder why Green didn't quote the whole passage in context.

 39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. - Hebrews 11:39,40 (NIV)

So the reason why the Old Testament saints didn't yet receive the promise is because of those of us who have come after them. It is God's intention that we get it all together. Also look at the the translation Green uses to make it seem like the Old Testament saints get nothing.  Look at what comes after in the passage. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. - Hebrews 12:1-3

In the Christian faith, mindlessness is next to godliness. To trust reason and require evidence is to imperil your very soul. Blind belief becomes a feat of spiritual strength to be admired and emulated. Strap a Bible to your head and send your brain on a suicide mission for Jesus; become a mind-martyr for the cause.

Now that is just a lie. No where does the Bible tells us to do that.

I have both seen and experienced how Christianity encourages people not to ask too many questions and not think too deeply. There are certain invisible boundaries and if you stray beyond them, you will reap the negative social consequences. Faith provides pseudo-certainty and doubt is a disease. Voice your doubts aloud and you soon will become a leper to be avoided in the city of faith.

I keep hearing people saying that is what Christianity is, but that is not my experience. I wasn't raised that way. Some people teach that way although the Bible does not talk that way.

16 Wash and make yourselves clean.
    Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
    stop doing wrong.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
    Defend the oppressed.[a]
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
    plead the case of the widow.
18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
    you will eat the good things of the land;
20 but if you resist and rebel,
    you will be devoured by the sword.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. - Isaiah 1:16-20
 The fundamentalist believer is happy to make use of reason, and science selectively in service of promoting their religion, but the moment these tools reveal flaws in their belief system, they slash the ties and float free, soaring on the wings of faith, unencumbered by rationality.

 I would like to see Green prove that. The burden of proof  is on him. Where is the mind of the skeptic? How does he know he is right about that?

Critical thinking does not always provide easy answers, let alone soothing ones. For the believer, the retreat into dogmatic belief is like a warm, soft security blanket they can wrap themselves in when facts and reason provide cold comfort. Doubt is disparaged and demonized by religion, but doubt is actually a valuable tool, guarding against self-deception and delusion.

There is no evidence that the Bible teaches us to not to critically think. What critical thinking should do is lead you to the conclusion that doubting God is stupid. If you don't come to that conclusion how do you know you have come to the right one? The Bible tells us that you have fallen into self-deception and delusion.  You have nothing to go on to prove that the Bible is false. 

Recently, I was discussing with a family member, the tendency of the Bible’s god to kill children for their parents’ ‘sin’, “Do you think it is ever right to kill a child because you are angry at their parents?” I asked

“Well, uh, ummm… God knows what is best, and I trust him,” was the response.

That is a bad answer. Green's question is predicated on a false presupposition. First  Green does not understand how bad sin is and further Green conveniently attempts to make an emotional case out of it. For example, he seems to be suggesting some adults sinned so God just killed their children. This is not what happened. The whole nation was destroyed according to scripture. And what about the 400 years God gave them to stop sinning before He sent Israel in to destroy them? Sounds like mercy to me. Ultimately Green doesn't want an answer. He really only wants to rationalize his rebellion against God.

Later, another family member wondered aloud why humans have body hair. I gave a science-based reply. Their response? “That’s not the answer I was wanting to hear.”

To me, that was very telling. Fundamentalist dogma has decreed what truth is and the mind must be subjugated to this dogma. Alternative evidence and answers must be rejected, using the ‘shield of faith.’ You see, faith is the immune system that protects the God virus from potential threats which might cause it to weaken and die. Despite all the technological and scientific advances in our world, it would seem that the Queen of Unreason is still the tyrant who rules supreme in the Wonderland of religion.

The only dogma I think Green has managed to demonstrate is that the Bible Bible teach one to believe things without evidence or against evidence. What he has managed to demonstrate is to show that he does not know what "faith" is.  He isn't the only one. I'm amazed that people who bring up this argument and even try to base it on Hebrews 11 always invariably fail to recognize that not one of them had blind faith. Each and everyone one of them had an encounter and a relationship with God. Let's just pick one of them:  Gideon.

32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, - Hebrews 11:32

Gideon was a man who wanted evidence that God had called him to do the work he was called to do - defeat the Midianites. God did not get mad, but gave him what he needed.  Read his story - Judges 6,7,8

Written by J. M. Green

Another one to add to the prayer list.

Debunking Christianity: Christianity and the Virtue of Unreason

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Agnostic Skeptical Centrism. - knowledgeequalsblackpower: Dr. Mae C. Jemison ...

 Here is a really great post from tumblr. I did not even realize that we have had that many black women in space. I think we must make sure that everyone knows this so that even young girls can know they can be Astronauts if they want to be Astronauts.

Dr. Mae C. Jemison
Stephanie Wilson
Joan Higginbotham
Dr. Yvonne Cagle
As we admire these women this month, we must also remember how difficult of a journey they must have had. And we must make a commitment to make the journey easier for little Black girls who are interested in science.
In her book Swimming Against the Tide: African American Girls and Science Education, Sandra Hanson explodes the myth that black girls are somehow disinterested in science due to hyper-religiosity or “culture.”   Hanson found that, despite significant institutional and societal barriers, there is greater interest in science among African American girls than in other student populations. She frames this seeming paradox in historical context, stressing that “Early ideologies about natural inequalities by race influenced the work of scientists and scholars as well as the treatment of minorities in the science domain.  Racism is a key feature of science in the United States and elsewhere.  This has a large impact on the potential for success among minority students.  Early work on science as fair has not been supported.”
Hanson outlines some of the obstacles that confront budding African American women scientists from elementary school to the postgraduate level.  Stereotypes about girls of color lacking proficiency in science, the absence of nurturing mentors, the dearth of education about people of color who have contributed to science research (i.e., culturally responsive science instruction), and academic isolation often deter youth who would like to pursue science careers.

Conservatives who disdain “liberal multiculturalism” in higher education dismiss such concerns about diversity in hiring as handwringing.  According to this view there is only one standard academia should use; objective and unbiased, untainted by affirmative action.
Yet white students are beneficiaries of cradle to grave affirmative action.  White students grow up seeing the dominant image of rational, trailblazing scientific discovery (from films like Dr. Strangelove to 2001: A Space Odyssey to Close Encounters to The Right Stuff) as spearheaded by courageous rugged individualist generally white males.  They are socialized to believe in a template of “purely” meritocratic success and individual achievement. Meritocracy becomes gospel and lucre.  They can take it to the bank and use it to repel the less qualified savages.

While she was at UCLA Devin Waller was the only African American woman in the Astrophysics department. On the first day of her upper division classes she recalls being asked by male students befuddled by her presence whether or not they “were in the right class.” Since peer networking and study groups in science departments are largely white and male, white academic success and scholarly legitimacy in science become a self-fulfilling prophecy. For black women in white male dominated professions, showing vulnerability and having any kind of public failure are simply not options. Like many women of color Devin’s approach was that “You kind of go in there and set a precedent. Everything you do is watched. You have to establish yourself as intelligent. There were no black women in my classes. No one who looked like me.”
Not having anyone who looks like them as a faculty member, administrator and/or mentor influences the sense of isolation, anxiety, and burnout that students of color often experience in science disciplines.  As an Electrical Engineering major Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code, a nonprofit dedicated to developing African American girls as computer programmers, also found herself “feeling culturally isolated” during college.  On her website she argues that  the “dearth of African-American women in science, technology, engineering and math professions…cannot be explained by, say, a lack of interest in these fields. Lack of access and lack of exposure to STEM topics are the likelier culprits.”
In her autobiography Find Where the Wind Goes: Moments from My Life, Mae Carol Jemison (the first black woman astronaut and first woman of color in space) reflects on how, after professing interest in being a scientist to one of her teachers, she was told to set her sights on being a nurse instead.  As a sixteen year-old undergraduate at Stanford University, Jemison was practically shunned by her physical science instructors.  Although her experiences occurred during the sixties and seventies, the dominant view of who is a proper scientist has not changed and nursing is still a more acceptable aspiration for black women who are culturally expected to be self-sacrificing caregivers for everyone in the universe.
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Agnostic Skeptical Centrism. - knowledgeequalsblackpower: Dr. Mae C. Jemison ...
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