Tuesday, November 24, 2015

If I Were an Atheist...How Would I Mourn?

Greetings, mortals!  It may seem like it's been some time since I posted last, but that's only true in the context of your fleeting lives.  For a timeless embodiment of God's Will like me, it's been less than the barest fraction of an instant.  So try to see things from my perspective and quit giving me a hard time, ok?

Speaking of fleeting lives, one of the great things about being an ageless immortal in the company of ageless immortals is that I never have to confront the decline and death of any loved ones.  Ever!  It's awesome.

Recently, however, a mortal who was close to me passed away.  Her death got me to thinking.  As one who believes ardently in God, I can be certain that the end of her mortal form was not her end.  I can take comfort that her immortal soul received the reward she earned in life (which, granted, was condemnation to Hell.  She was a good, honest, and loving person, but unrepentantly wore cotton/polyester blends for decades).  Similarly, a mortal who believes in God as I do could look at her death and stave off the fear of his own with that same, comforting thought: my body's inevitable death is not the end.  My loved ones' deaths are not the end.  Our souls will go on.

But what about atheists?  How does someone who believes that there is no afterlife confront the loss of a loved one?  Where does she or he find comfort from the fear of death?  What does she or he say to young children who keep hearing that the deceased is now "watching over them from Heaven," and asking their atheist mother or father whether that's true?

I didn't have ready answers -- I mean, apart from "all of those thoughts are affronts to the LORD; repent your heresy!" -- so I thought I'd conduct another thought experiment.  This time, I'm asking:

If I were an atheist, how would I mourn the loss of a loved one?

Well, first, I'd have to confront the hard reality.  The person who died is gone.  Forever.  Her single shot at a meaningful existence is over.  All that's left of her are the changes she worked in the world and our memories of her...but even those will gradually dim and disappear.  Our crediting her for her works, our memories of her, will decay.  The biochemical and neurological mechanisms we have evolved to defend ourselves from the strain of trauma will work inexorably to close the psychic wound of her absence by dimming our memories of her.  And then, soon enough, those who knew her works and remember her will themselves die.  The world will go on as if she had never been here.

Next, I'd have to accept that the exact same thing will happen to me.  That the exact same thing will happen to every single one of my loved ones.  I'd have to confront the fact that there is no external source of comfort from the fear of death.  No God will shepherd me to an afterlife; no aspect of my consciousness will continue to eternity.  Death is instead (except for one species of jellyfish) total and inevitable.

As I, an atheist, grappled with this, I'd also have to be jealous of theists.  I'd watch them find sincere comfort in their beliefs of an afterlife and a merciful God.  I'd realize that while I disagree with them about God's existence, I see undeniable value in how they mourn together through ritual and song, knitting together communities to aid those hit hardest by the loss of a loved one.

At the same time, I'd be furious to hear them label the person who died a flawed sinner, who goes to Heaven only through the grace and forgiveness of God.  I'd want to scream at them that they were demeaning her memory in the name of ancient superstition.  I'd want to ask them why they couldn't just celebrate her as a good person who struggled through a good person's life to leave behind healthy, well-loved children.  But then I wouldn't do any of those things, because who wants to be the [blasphemy redacted] who pulls that [more blasphemy redacted] at a funeral service?

Then I'd answer the questions from my children:
Is our loved one in Heaven, like the celebrant said? 
No one really knows.  Some people believe that.  I don't think there's a Heaven. 
If there's no Heaven, where did she go? 
Nowhere.  Her body and her brain stopped, like they do for all living things.  What goes on is people's memories of her.
We're supposed to be happy that she's in Heaven.  If she's not, do we just have to be sad? 
Being sad is perfectly natural when someone you know dies.  Everyone feels sad when they lose someone.  But we don't have to just be sad because she's gone.  You saw all the people who came to celebrate her life; she made a lot of people happy for a long time.  We can be happy for us and for them that we had such wonderful times with her -- and have the happy memories to carry with us. 
Will I die?  Will you and Mommy? 
Yes, eventually.  But probably not for a long time.  And for as long as we're alive, I promise we'll work to have wonderful times together and build lots of happy memories for you to carry when we're gone.
And then...where would I go from the thought that death is final, total, and inevitable?

Well, after I finished crying, I'd go to the realization that my finite life -- which is no greater or less in dignity than the finite life of every sapient being on the planet -- is precious.  I don't have eternity to find meaning or satisfaction.  If I want those things (as I ardently do), I need to work for them now.

I'd realize that I still need comfort from the fear of death, but that the source of that comfort isn't faith, or a religious leader, or God.  The sole source of comfort from the fear of death is me.  If I want to prolong my existence, I need to make choices that protect and strengthen my body starting right now.  If I want to die satisfied with my life, I need to work for that satisfaction starting right now.  And if I want to make sure that my loved ones are left with comforting, happy memories of me -- or that I'm left with comforting, happy memories of them -- I need to create those with them starting right now.

In short, I'd realize that what shields me from the fear of death is not avoiding it with promises of an afterlife, but working every day on myself and my relationships to be satisfied with my lot in life when my death inevitably comes.

My next thought would be that because we all evolved the same way, and that none of us is favored above others by any God, that's true for everyone.  So everyone I see working through their days?  Is working to make the most of the only meaningful existence they'll ever get.  So I should probably make choices that help them (within reason) to reach our shared goal of personal satisfaction.

What, then, about the comfort of believing that my consciousness will continue on to eternity?  That there will never be a world without me?

I don't get to have that.  I have to instead confront the universe for what it is: something that will go on without me almost entirely unchanged by my death.

But while I may have to live in an uncaring universe, I get to live in a consistent one.  As an atheist, I view every natural death -- including my own -- as neither fair nor unfair.  No death is freighted with divine judgment or inequity.  Death is natural and impartial.

If, for example, my three-year-old neighbor is afflicted with an inoperable, cancerous brain tumor, I'm not driven to resent a God who let something so awful happen to an innocent and his family.  I don't have to struggle through grief to reconcile my beliefs about God with the evidence of suffering before me.  Because I know God didn't let that child die.  I know He didn't engineer the boy's death for a greater purpose.  The child just developed cancer because the biological processes that have allowed all known life to evolve occasionally lead to cellular mutations that cause cancer.  So I can work through my grief without the distraction of anger at an absent, heedless, or cruel God.  I get to see every death as tragic, but sensible.

So, in short, as an atheist confronting death, I lose the external comfort of the promise of eternal life.  But in exchange, I can take comfort in the fact that while the universe is cold and uncaring, it is ultimately cold and uncaring to all of us equally.  And I gain the urgent desire to live my life meaningfully -- and to help others do the same.

Wow, that really sounds like a ton more work than believing in Heaven.

Yep!  And why would anyone put in that kind of effort?  Thank God (again) I'm not an atheist!

Thank you for reading, mortals, and as always, I look forward to your comments and questions.  Take care, and God (who, again, totally does exist) bless.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Could morality have come from anywhere but God? Nope!

Greetings, mortals!  In my Twitter ministry, I have encountered a great number and variety of atheists, including a atheistic, Canadian expy of Captain America who writes an excellent blog.  With the exception of the ones who freely admit they eat babies, however, one theme is common to their tweets: Atheists claim to be moral without believing in or obeying God.

But are they correct?
I will admit it certainly appears that way.  There is overwhelming evidence that atheists are, at the level of populations, law-abiding, egalitarian, and tolerant.  Dr. Phil Zuckerman has found that atheists are less likely than the religious to "harbor ethnocentric, racist, or nationalistic attitudes."  In his paper Atheism, Secularlarity, and Well-Being, he concludes that

[a]theism and secularity have many positive correlates, such as higher levels of education and verbal ability, lower levels of prejudice, ethnocentrism, racism, and homophobia, greater support for women’s equality, child-rearing that promotes independent thinking and an absence of corporal punishment, etc. And at the societal level, with the important exception of suicide, states and nations with a higher proportion of secular people fare markedly better than those with a higher proportion of religious people. 
But what appears to be correct and what's actually correct are, of course, two different things.  For example, modern science appears to be correct -- despite contradicting the Bible -- on such fundamental issues as the origin, age, and composition of the Universe, whether the Earth is an oblate spheroid, the existence of unicorns, how to breed striped goats, and the origin and development of all known life.  But does that mean it's actually correct?  Of course not.  Modern science contradicts the Bible.  Therefore, it's actually incorrect.

How do we know one can't be moral without God?
First, and most importantly, the Bible says so.  Boom, QED, end of discussion.

Second, if you insist on further discussion, just look at morals.  They're so complex!  Atheists tend to claim that these incredibly intricate codes of behavior emerged from human empathy.  But no one could possibly accept something so complex coming from something so basic.  In fact, for atheists to claim in an intellectually honest way that rules and patterns as complex as morals could emerge from something as basic as the human impulse to empathy, they'd have to show that such emergence is evidenced elsewhere in the entirely naturalistic universe in which they claim to believe.

And that's just not possible.  It's not like you see, say, significant changes in butterfly phenotypes based on small changes in genotype.  Or even complex patterns emerging from simple rules in binary cell automation.  So, clearly, you wouldn't see varied, intricate moral codes emerging from something as straightforward as the capacity to see things from another's perspective.  They must, therefore, have come from the God of the Bible -- as the Bible says.  QED again.

Third, if you believe (like atheists laughably do) that human characteristics are the product of evolution from an ancestor common to all known life in response to selective pressure, you'd naturally expect to see some form of morality in other social animals -- which is ridiculous.  Do you see altruism in insects?  Chimpanzees risking or sacrificing their lives for one another, or gibbons voluntarily going hungry when they know that they have to hurt others to eat?  Or elephants showing sympathy for the plight of trapped antelope?  Despite the evidence of exactly those things, no, you don't.  So morality just couldn't have emerged from evolutionarily advantageous traits.

Since there is no secular, naturalistic explanation for human morals, they must be given to humanity by God.  Atheists, who reject God, are therefore immoral despite all evidence to the contrary.

So...if atheists are immoral, why do they, on average, behave in moral ways more consistently than the religious?
It has to be Satan making atheists look good to trick people into becoming irreligious, thus earning themselves condemnation to Hell by omnibenevolent God.  What other sensible explanation is there?

Thank you, mortals, as always, for reading!  I look forward to your thoughts in the comments section.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Burrito Question

Greetings, mortals!  In my ministry on Twitter, I am frequently challenged to answer what I have come to call "The Burrito Question."

The Burrito Question was most famously asked by the well-known, jaundiced, anadactylic heathen Homer Simpson of good Christian Ned Flanders in Episode 16:13, Weekend at Burnsies:
Hey, I've got a question for you. Could Jesus microwave a burrito so hot that he himself could not eat it?
It's a variation on the more standard omnipotence paradox, "Can omnipotent God create a stone so heavy even He cannot lift it?"

Since I'm asked this so often, I thought I'd address it here so all four of my faithful readers can have ready access to the definitive answer to this so-called "paradox."

Can the Triune God (or any aspect thereof) microwave a burrito so hot that he himself could not eat it?

Yes.  God is omnipotent, and so may accomplish any task at His barest whim.  This necessarily includes the Creation of a burrito so hot He cannot eat it (and its necessary predicate, Creation of a microwave capable of this feat).

Does this prove that God, who can create a task that is impossible for Him, is consequently not omnipotent?  

No.  Remember, in addition to being omnipotent, God is omniscient.  And as we all know, knowledge is power.  Since God is omnipotent and omniscient, and knowledge is power, He is omnipotent twice.

God can therefore use His first omnipotence to create a task beyond His boundless power -- a burrito too hot to eat, a stone to heavy to lift, an argument so circular even He couldn't believe it -- and then use His second omnipotence to accomplish it.

Glad we got that settled once and for all.  Thank you, mortals, for reading.  As always, I look forward to your thoughts in the comments section.

Monday, January 5, 2015

What Would Happen if Atheists Really Re-Wrote the Ten Commandments? The Collapse of Civilization.

Greetings, mortals!  Sorry for my long absence from this blog.  I recently got a new job falsifying the spectrographic profiles of exoplanets to make them appear Earth-like (to further test your faith in Creation, of course).  As you might imagine, the work involves a lot of travel, which has eaten into my blogging time.  Nonetheless, I'm ready to dive right back in to bringing everyone Christ's Word of love, generosity, and kindness to your fellow humans.

First up?  Discussing how atheists -- every single one of them -- are working to destroy civilization by driving people away from God.  As you may have heard on CNN, two atheists, Lex Bayer and John Figdor, recently promulgated ten atheist "non-commandments."

As you'll see, these guidelines are a recipe for the destruction of everything religion has helped build.  Under them, people would think critically, follow the evidence rather than their feelings to conclusions (which would be modifiable by new evidence!), act thoughtfully and treat others mindfully, and be tolerant of the harmless choices of their fellow human beings.  In other words, these "non-commandments" would lay waste to the racial, social, and economic distinctions that God, through His churches and chosen servants in government, has established and maintained on Earth.

As scary as these are, however, just imagine if atheists, in their secular humanist zeal, re-wrote the actual Ten Commandments -- which are indisputably the first-ever written legal code and the basis for all morals and laws, particularly in the United States of America.

Actually, let's not imagine.  Let's build on my thought experiment about what atheists believe, pretend to be atheists, and re-write the actual Commandments.  Be warned!  What follows here is terrifying.

First, "I am the LORD thy God which brought thee out of the land of Egypt.  Thou shalt have no other gods before me" becomes

1. Believe in God or gods or whatever you want, just so long as you don't seek to impose your beliefs on anyone else or discriminate against those who believe differently.  But we respectfully suggest taking a skeptical view of all claims concerning the supernatural -- especially ones where the claims are extreme, e.g., of creatures endowed with omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence.

Laughable.  As if the claim that there exists a God who can rewrite the laws of the Universe at his barest whim is "extreme."

Okay, next, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image" is corrupted into

2. Pictures of pretty much anything are allowed, so long as you don't create or use the images in ways that harm the body and/or mind of the entity depicted.  Also, don't distribute images without the express consent of their subjects or, for copyrighted materials, the content creators.  That's just basic decency.

Huh.  Not bad.  Sure, permitting sexually explicit images is execrable, but at least this version would take care of the whole "the Crucifix is a graven image/no it isn't/yes it is/fine, be that way, let's kill each other by the thousands over the course of centuries and split our religion that nominally calls all humanity into oneness with God into innumerable sects" thing.

Anyway, on to "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain."  This one becomes a depraved free-for-all:

3. Say anything you want at any time you want, so long as you're not saying it to deliberately hurt someone or prevent people from having their say.  And if something someone says hurts or offends you, feel free to confront her or him about that, explain why you felt hurt, find out whether she or he intended the hurt, and react (within reason) accordingly.

Chilling, isn't it?  Obeying this would prevent me and my fellow Christians from protecting our beliefs from criticism by feigning umbrage.  No thank you.

Ok, next, "Remember the Sabbath Day" becomes the social order-disrupting

4. Give people time off from work and/or school when they're sick or need to handle the personal matters that everybody has from time to time, and offer a generous amount of vacation time.  Not only will your employees/students be more productive, they'll be happier because they'll feel respected and thus more fulfilled in life -- which, in the end, is all that matters.

Please.  Don't atheists know that salvation comes by suffering all of life's travails without longing for any temporal reward?  Well, except for the rich.  They're saved mostly by philanthropy.  Or just going to church on the Sabbath.  Or praying at their convenience.  Because God gives us the suffering He knows we can bear, and the rich?  They're really out of practice at putting up with anything other than occasional, transient discomfort.

How about "Honor thy father and mother?"

5. Treat family members with the respect they deserve.  If they nurtured and supported you, nurture and support them right back.  If they tore you down, be at peace with the fact that there's no shame in parting ways with destructive people -- even if they're family.  Oh, and, don't anybody judge those who made the hard choice to limit or break contact with family members.  Such decisions are never arrived at easily and should be respected.

*Shudder*.  People feeling free to leave relationships that diminish them would pretty much kill efforts to recruit people into religion by harping on their sinful nature and consequent need for salvation.  Can't have that.

Alright, now for the big one.  How do atheists re-write "Thou shalt not kill"?

6. Don't kill anyone for any reason other than defense of oneself or another against lethal force or involuntary servitude.  This includes war and the death penalty. 

Huh!  That doesn't seem so--

6 (cont'd). No other exceptions ok?  None.  None of this divine command or preventing the spread of an ideology with which you disagree bullshit.  No god told you to kill or go to war, and even if you think one or more did, see #1.  Same for if you have the desire to bring a knife -- or a bomb, or an army -- to an idea fight.  No.  Killing.

Well, then.  Not so sure why secular humanists would be so worked up about people killing each other for perfectly good reasons like combating apostasy and to fulfill perceived divine command, but I guess they are.

Moving on!  "Thou shalt not commit adultery."

7. Consensual sex between adults only, please, and if you've promised someone you'll have sex exclusively with her or him, keep your promise until you've told her or him that you've changed your mind.

That's...not terrible.  It's basically identical in effect to the original.  Score one for the atheists, I guess.  Oh, wait, no, this includes homosexual relationships.  My bad!  This would be destructive because treating the gays like they're people destabilizes civilization.  Don't ask me how, but it does.

Anyway, on to number eight: "Thou shalt not steal."

8. Don't steal, and especially don't set up entire social and economic systems designed to irrevocably concentrate wealth in an elite class to the detriment of all others.

I don't really have a problem with this, except it kind of piles on the moneychangers.  They haven't been able to ply their trade in sites of worship for, like, 2,000 years.  Lay off, ok?

Getting close to the end now.  Number 9, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against they neighbor."

9. Don't lie to anyone about matters of consequence.

No, no, no.  Can you imagine not being able to mischaracterize or fabricate things about people you've outgrouped so as to bolster your own personal, social, economic, or political standing?  How would we maintain the integrity of our insular communities, or make sure that governments only help those whom we deem deserving?

Alright, finally, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's."

10. We suggest that comparing yourself to other people is a recipe for unhappiness.  Instead, try working hard to get what you want in the way you want it.  If you see someone who has what you want, ask her or him how to get it.  We think you'll find yourself most fulfilled most often by living the life you build for yourself -- even when it's hard.

That's just ridiculous.  The key to happiness is not to strive for what you want.  It's to pray for what you want, and then, when your prayers go unanswered -- as they almost certainly will -- to resign yourself to lifelong privation, the pain of which you dampen with the unconfirmed promise of an eternal paradise in Heaven.  Seriously, it's like atheists don't understand how these things are supposed to work.  I'll stick with the original Commandments -- and hope you do, too.

Thank you, mortals, for reading!  As always, please offer your thoughts and feedback in the comments.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Evidence that the building blocks of life are abundant in the interstellar medium? Yes, but it's not a big deal.

Greetings, mortals!  Earlier today, scientists with the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy announced their finding that isopropyl cyanide, an organic molecule, is abundant in the interstellar medium.  They made this "discovery" by observing the Sagittarius B2 gas cloud with the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) of radio telescopes to analyze the radiospectrometric signatures of the various molecules that make up the gas cloud. 

While researchers have previously detected organic molecules in space, isopropyl cyanide is the first such organic molecule seen that has a branched carbon backbone.  It, unlike any of those previously-observed molecules, is thus more like the amino acids that your sciences (incorrectly) believe form the building blocks of life here on Earth.  Because the amino acids, like isopropyl cyanide, have a branched, carbon-based structure.

What's the significance of this?  Well, if you believe life on Earth arose naturalistically, this finding strongly suggests that other branched carbon molecules -- including, possibly, amino acids themselves -- exist in abundance in space.  That would further support the theory that life arose on Earth without any supernatural intervention because it means those building blocks were likely already present here on Earth and didn't have to form from simpler molecules under the right conditions.

In other words, if branched carbon molecules are abundant in space, they were likely abundant on Earth from its earliest days.  And if that's true, the number of steps humans thought were needed to move from molecules present on Earth to the emergence of life decreases.  It also increases the likelihood that life exists elsewhere in the universe.

Said another way, given the existence of branched carbon organic molecules in space, the number of assumptions in the chemical synthesis-based hypotheses of abiogenesis goes down.  And as scientists are always fond of telling us, the simpler a hypothesis is in relation to competing hypotheses, the more likely it's true.

Does this undermine Creation or Intelligent Design?  No, of course not.  First of all, if you want to blaspheme by calling Creation a hypothesis, it's the simplest hypothesis of all: God did it.  You don't even need to assume anything (apart from the agency of a supernatural being of limitless power and eternal duration whose very existence is at variance with all available evidence, which evidence is consistent only with a naturalistic universe).  QED.

Second, even if branched carbon organic molecules were abundant on Earth from its beginning, no one was around to see those molecules become self-replicating bases for all terrestrial life.  That means abiogenesis can't be proven, which means, of course, abiogenesis must not be true.  And if abiogenesis isn't true, then Creation must be, because it says so in the Bible.  QED again!

If God Created all, why, then, are complex organic molecules present in interstellar space?  Simple.  As I said in my last post, God has been expanding the veil of Heaven to make sure human space exploration doesn't pierce through it.  It's been a big project and something we had to do pretty quickly, so, well, there wasn't a lot of time to clean everything up.

Basically, the organic compounds you're seeing in space are the cast-off materials from Creation.  It's the sawdust on the floor of God's workshop.  That's all.  There's no significance to it at all apart from being further proof that God Created all life on Earth.

So quit getting all excited about this, okay?  Focus on something more important.  Like praying, or figuring out better ways to rationalize the Bible into being literal truth.  The salvation of your immortal soul is, after all, both incompatible with and more important than knowledge.

Thank you for reading, and as always, I welcome your comments below!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

If God Punished Humanity for the Tower of Babel, why not for Space Exploration?

Oh, He's punishing you for it.  And what He's doing is chilling.

But we'll get to that.  First let's discuss what you're doing wrong.  The Book of Genesis is clear on how humanity is supposed to view the cosmos: 

"Flammarion" by Anonymous - Camille Flammarion, L'Atmosphere: Météorologie Populaire (Paris, 1888), pp. 163. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
I, of course, cloaked this truth of Creation in the evidence that you now claim points to a spherical earth, heliocentric solar system, and Big Bang cosmology.  But you were supposed to reject all of that evidence.  You were supposed to accept what the Bible says about the cosmos because what the Bible says about the cosmos is in the Bible.

Obviously you went a different way.

And so here we are, with humanity growing more and more distant from the beliefs God prescribed for you as your scientists re-create the conditions of the Big Bang, achieve greater understanding of your place in the universe, and use space-based telescopes to peer further than ever before into the cosmos.

You're not limiting yourself to terrestrial efforts, either.  You have collaborated despite nationalism to build an orbital station, sent a probe past the heliosphere into interstellar space (maybe), and landed a laser-armed, nuclear-powered science tank on another planet.  Your spaceflight capabilities have advanced to the point that private entities are now able to accomplish feats of engineering once achievable only by governments.

Which brings us back to the Tower of Babel.  Genesis 11:1-9 teaches,
And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. 
And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. 
And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. 
And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto Heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. 
And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. 
And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. 
Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. 
So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. 
Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.

In short, a bunch of dudes got together and, because they had both the ability to collaborate effortlessly and a sufficient supply of slime, were able to begin building a tower that would have pierced Heaven but for the intervention of God.  Because as God said, when humans collaborate fully, nothing within their imaginations remains beyond their grasp.

Seriously.  You guys are figuring out how to propel spaceships with glorified microwave ovens.  You're working on a warp drive, for [blasphemy redacted]'s sake.  Let that sink in.  You are working on a warp drive.

Now, sure, the warp drive stuff is still all theoretical.  But do you think something being theoretical is going to stop you?  Look at your Rosetta spacecraft.  It was launched in 2004.  A week ago, the European Space Agency chose a landing site on comet 67P for the Rosetta's Philae lander.  Let that sink in.  Humans shot a rocket into space ten years ago, successfully maneuvered its payload into stable orbit around a comet this year, and are about to land on that comet another science tank.  And how did you do this?  By combining math, astronomy, physics, chemistry, engineering, and fire.  Holy [blasphemy redacted].

Anyway!  Back to Babel.  Humanity was about to pierce the veil of Heaven.  But if it had done that, the portion of the dark ocean held above the Earth by Heaven would have poured through, drowning everything on Earth.  And that kind of devastation is something only God is allowed to wreak, thank you very much.  Also, secondarily, humanity was proving itself capable of equaling the glory of God, which He really doesn't like.

For those two reasons, God (who, of course, loves you and wants only for you to succeed), robbed you of your ability to collaborate with one another for your shared benefit.  The veil of Heaven and God's majesty were thus preserved.

Except you found workarounds.  Fast forward 4,300 years -- since, of course, the Earth is only 6,000 years old -- and not only have you learned each others'  languages, you're now so capable as scientists and engineers that you can exceed the works of the Babel architects within not just a single language, but within a single nation.

So what was God to do?  Organized religious sects already keep you divided, obviously, but that's no longer sufficient.  Neither is the languages thing.  Even if He pulled that again, you'd just adapt again.  You'd keep expanding your reach to the stars, pierce the veil of Heaven, and drown the Earth.

So He decided to punish you by implementing a public works project second in scope only to Creation.  As humanity has peered and explored deeper into space, God has concomitantly expanded the veil of Heaven to exceed your reach.  That is His horrifying punishment for your continued, arrogant exploration of the cosmos.

Now, you may be saying, "that doesn't seem so bad."  Well, then.  You haven't thought through the implications.

Before they may receive their posthumous reward in Heaven, virtuous souls must first get there.  And as you know, God has made it so nothing in the universe travels faster than the speed of light -- including humans' immortal souls.

The veil of Heaven is now over 13 billion light-years away from the Earth.  Which means that when your faithful loved ones pass away, it takes at least 13 billion years for their souls to reach Heaven.  So your dear departed Grandma?  Yep, you guessed it.  She's presently hurtling through the blackness of space, incorporeal, immortal, and utterly alone, just as she will be for billions and billions of years to come.

Terrible, isn't it?  But necessary -- because God loves you.  He doesn't want you to drown.

...again, I mean.

Thank you for reading, mortals!  As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Monday, September 1, 2014

If I Were an Atheist...

Greetings, mortals!  Christ, in Chapter 5, verse 44 of the Gospel of Matthew, teaches,

But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye?  Do not even the publicans the same?  And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others?  Do not even the publicans so?  Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Which, of course, I always strive to do.  But it's hard!  Throughout my ministry on Twitter, I have encountered atheists who disbelieve the very existence of God.  Loving them despite their persistent apostasy has been difficult.  So I sought guidance from a moral authority nearly equal to Christ: Atticus Finch.

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view -- until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.

So, to better follow Christ's teachings, I thought I'd try what I believe infidels call a "thought experiment."

If I were an atheist, what would I believe?

Well, first, I'd be human.  Second, I'd have concluded after inquiry and introspection that there's no reliable proof of God -- of any gods.  I'd believe that the available evidence points to nothing supernatural at all.  In addition, I'd maintain that what evidence we do have is consistent only with a naturalistic universe.  And while I wouldn't currently have an explanation for how all known life arose, I would see from what science tells us that the known diversity of life is well-explained by the occurrence of genetic mutations and application of selective pressures over the billions of years the Earth has existed.

Wow, ok.  Wow, I'd have to reject Creationism.  I'd no longer believe that all life was Created by an omnipotent God, in whom lies infinite plenty.  Instead, I, like all but a few biologists, would believe that everything we know about life -- above all the universal condition of constant, brutal competition for scarce resources during finite lives -- supports the theory that life emerged on Earth billions of years ago and evolved from there to its current states.  Moreover, my view would be supported not by a holy text, but by centuries of consistent findings in the fossil record, naturalistic observations, and laboratory experiments.

I'd also be skeptical about my own, personal experiences of God.  After all, neuroscience has demonstrated that my feeling of a personal connection to something greater than myself during prayer and ritual worship is, on a chemical level, indistinguishable from connections with the divine felt by others who believe in a God or gods that I hold to be false.  I, being skeptical, would therefore be inclined to conclude that my personal experience of God was nothing more than the operation of chemical processes in the reward center of my brain.

Based on all of that, I'd reject the supernatural events described in holy texts.  After all, none of them has been observed or repeated.  All of them are explainable by science in a way consistent with a naturalistic universe.  On top of that, if I viewed holy texts skeptically, the contradictions, demonstrable inaccuracies, and immoralities they contain would strongly suggest human authorship, rather than inspiration by an omniscient, omnibenevolent God.

So there's no God. Nothing outside holy texts supports His existence.  In fact, those same holy texts undermine His existence.  Where do I go from there?

Ok, well, if there's no God, the universe wasn't Created for me.  I'm not exalted above all other living creatures.  In fact, I exist by mere chance.  The universe not only doesn't care about my fleeting existence, it, outside of those of its sentient subcomponents who know me, isn't aware of me at all.  

Furthermore, no God loves me above others because I happen to worship Him in the right way with the right words.  My origin and existence are no more remarkable or memorable than that of any other person. Even if my life becomes the stuff of legend on Earth, I will be, at best, forgotten with the collapse of civilization.  Should records of my exploits be discovered and translated by whatever civilization arises after ours, or after that one, or after the next one yet, I'll be forgotten when it collapses.  And no matter what, I'll be forgotten here when the Sun expands and the Earth becomes, like most of the universe, inhospitable to all life.  

Not even the idea that my exploits would be broadcast to the stars is a comfort.  After all, the expansion of the universe will eventually stretch out that signal to the point of unintelligibility.  Even if it were to persist long enough to be received and understood by some extraterrestrial beings, they, too, would eventually come to nothing.

In short, virtually nothing I do matters on a scale meaningful to anything outside my immediate environs and anyone other than those whose lives intersect with mine.  And no matter what I do, no matter how great I am, I will die, decompose, and be forgotten -- just like everyone else.

So life is meaningless.

Well, yeah, obviously.  I'm an atheist for this thought experiment.  But I've still got this pesky will to live.  I can't shake it.  Even though the universe isn't handing me a reason to go on, I seem to need to find one.  In fact, I seem to need to assign meaning and purpose to what I do in order to find what I do rewarding.  I suspect that's evolutionarily advantageous.

It also seems that the biological processes that evolved to help me survive as a member of the current global apex predator species, which initially achieved dominance as an endurant pack animal, make me feel happy when I do things that those biological processes make me feel are meaningful.  And a lot of the things those processes make me feel are meaningful just happen to build connections with the humans around me.  I suspect that that's also evolutionarily advantageous.

So, in other words, even though no God exists to supply my life with meaning, I have inborn in me, independent of anything external or supernatural, the need to live a life of purpose.


Shh, I'm thinking.  So while, to the universe, my life is infinitesimal, I need to live it.  And I need for it to be full of meaning.  And who cares whether those needs arise from biochemical processes?  They are mine, and they are constant and inescapable.

And, holy crap, everyone else needs the same things too.  Because we all evolved the same way.  The biochemical processes that drive me drive everyone else.  And...and none of us is loved by a God above another.  There is no God to do so.  None of us is favored in any way by anything other than chance.  

We are all, therefore, creatures of a common origin and destination.  Nothing else will ever help us, comfort us, or guide us.  There is no other life but that which competes with us for what we need to live.  We are all we have.  That's why we evolved to work -- and have succeeded only by working -- together.

Um, so...

Shh, still thinking.  This means no one is my better.  Not only are we all shaped by mutation and natural selection to need each other, but everyone is driven by the same basic needs as me: water, food, shelter, companionship, competence, and purpose.  When other people behave in ways that increase my access to those things, they enrich my life.  They enrich that part they've touched of the only life I'll ever have.  When they're selfish, they diminish and make difficult part of the only life I'll ever have.

And when I'm selfish -- when I behave in ways that benefit me to others' detriment -- that's what I do to them.  I take a part of a fleeting existence that is equally as precious as mine and I make it worse.  But when I'm generous, thoughtful, and caring, I make it better.

Then, in turn, I'm rewarded!  The biological processes that drive me to be a collaborative member of a collaborative species make me feel good about how I acted.  I get not just the same dopamine-driven satisfaction I once found by saying the right words in the right way at the right time to the right God, but the knowledge that I've given of myself in a way that improved a life equal in value to my own.

So...life isn't meaningless?

It would appear not.  I, an atheist, find my own life's meaning.  And I find it most frequently by acting to enrich the lives of my co-equal human beings.

Wow.  It sounds like thinking that way would take a lot of care and consideration.

Oh, yeah, it sounds like a ton of work.  Thank God I'm not an atheist!

Thank you for reading, mortals, and as always, I look forward to your comments and questions.  Take care, and God (who totally does exist) bless.