Just to Set the Record Straight…

I make my own decisions.  I rejected the god hypothesis of my own accord.  No one steered me towards atheism.  No one suggested that I reject religion.  I didn’t experience some trauma that made me “hate god.” I didn’t decide to  live a godless life because I “want to live free, without having to answer to a transcendent moral authority” (although the freedom that came with atheism is refreshing).  As I’ve said time and time again, I came to atheism through a process of education and rational thinking.  Simply put, I do not believe in god, because there is no good, solid, rational reason for doing so.

Despite having given my reasons, and despite having repeated them time and time again, it always amazes me how the Christians in my social circle reject my honest confession and opt for a completely different explanation of my motives that neither makes any sense nor is supported by any evidence whatsoever.  But, hey, let’s face it… believing things without evidence isn’t a new concept for most religious people.

While most of these are rather silly and humorous, some of these are just disrespectful.  Let me go over a few, (and if you don’t want to read this and just want to know which one pisses me off the most, just scroll down):

1. My god is obvious, and if you don’t see him, you must be blind.

Ahh, the old “my god is obvious” shtick. You have to appreciate the irony of it: clearly, if a worshiper of the ancient Greek gods were to say “how can you reject Poseidon… he’s so obvious!” most of these same people would laugh.  It’s kinda like how they always refer to anything having to do with their faith as “truth.” As if, like putting “all natural” on a food label, the mere act of calling it something is going to make people not question it and accept it without them having to provide any real evidence for how “obvious” it is.  Why is it that the “obvious” god of 1.4 billion Muslims isn’t so obvious to anyone else?  Close to one billion Hindus think their gods are obvious, so why doesn’t the rest of the world feel the same way? To a Christian, the existence of Yahweh and his magic carpenter son are “obvious,” but still the majority of the world hasn’t bought in to this purportedly “obvious” truth.

Christians who claim that their god is obvious or has already proven himself, should be ready to explain what they mean.  The shirt on my back is obviously real.  The food on my plate is obviously real.  The computer keys I’m hitting are obviously real.  If whatever god you’re convinced exists is truly as “obvious” as you claim, then it shouldn’t be too hard to convince people as such.  But instead, after two thousand years of Christianity and a millennium-and-a-half of Islam, half the world still thinks that those two religions have it all wrong.

Or perhaps I’m wrong.  Perhaps when Jehovah sent out his “I exist” e-mails, I didn’t get it because I was glued to the television watching a hurricane, or an earthquake, or a tidal wave wipe out another million people or watching people suffer from debilitating diseases and die horrible painful deaths for no reason.  If that’s the god you think is so obvious, then in the immortal words of Ricky Ricardo, “you’ve got some ‘splaining to do.”

2. Clearly you just don’t want to believe in god, and any evidence we show you will be dismissed right away because you’ve already made up your mind on the matter.

Right. Because denying the evidence for something magically makes it not exist.  I mean, it works so well for many Christians when it concerns evolution. Clearly, I’ve been shown compelling evidence already, and I think that by denying that evidence, I can magically make hell disappear so I don’t have to go there.  Makes perfect sense.

The fact is, this accusation is totally false.  I demand to be convinced. I want to be convinced.  It would be great if there were an afterlife, wouldn’t it?  I’d be more than willing to accept the presence of any god that was kind enough to give me the physical evidence for his or her existence.  Or even have one of his followers do it.  I don’t care.  I just want to see the good evidence.

But, it would have to be good evidence.  It would have to be irrefutable, and unable to be equally claimed by another religion. Let me give you examples of evidence that I would accept as support for the existence of a god (and I will elaborate more on this in a future entry):

  • Verified, specific prophecies that could not possibly have been contrived or made to fit after the fact.
  • Specific scientific knowledge that wasn’t available at the time.
  • A true, irrefutable miracle; especially if brought about by prayer.
  • Scientifically-sound, repeatable evidence that praying to a specific god works significantly better than praying to any other god or not praying at all.
  • Any direct manifestation of the divine.
  • A genuinely flawless holy book, completely free of even apparent contradictions.
  • A religion without internal factions, disputes, or differences of opinion.
  • A religion who’s followers had never committed or taken part in any atrocities.

I think anyone would argue that these are perfectly reasonable criteria.  And just in case you think you’re up to the challenge, here’s a helpful list of things that will not convince me, just so you don’t waste your time and mine:

  • Any subjective experience, such as “I feel him in my heart” or “I felt god’s presence.”
  • A personal conversion story, such as “I used to be a gay, drug-dealing prostitute and god changed me.”
  • Speaking in tongues, fake faith-healing or any other pseudo-miracles.
  • Vague, loosely-worded prophecies that can be construed to apply to anything.
  • Self-fulfilling prophecies, where the mere presence of the prophecy inspired people to make it happen.
  • Any purported “bible code” or numerology nonsense in a particular holy book.
  • Creationist claims of any kind. (That would include “Intelligent Design”)

3. All you knew before was religion, and it’s no wonder you rejected it. Yahweh/Jesus/Allah/Zeus is all about a relationship, not religion.

Sorry to break this to you, but my father is a pastor.  I grew up being taught the “Word of God.” I know about all the dogma and beliefs that come with being a Christian (actually that would depend on which version of Christianity you happen to follow), and I still rejected it.  Five years ago, I would have made the same claim. “It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship” is nothing more than a pathetic attempt to make one’s irrational beliefs somehow seem less crazy than every other religion out there.  Call it whatever else you want, but the fact is, Christianity is a religion. It’s a set of beliefs concerning the cause and nature of the universe, based on articles of faith. Attempting to divorce one’s beliefs about god and the supernatural by claiming that they aren’t what they clearly are is not only dumb, it’s arrogant.  Everyone else who applies other attributes to god or calls him by a different name or claims that there are more than one, are members of a religion, but you’re not?

This reminds me of my favorite favorite favorite stupid claim…

4. It’s obvious you were never a real Christian, or you wouldn’t have rejected God.

Yes, of course. Because anyone who decides to stop eating junk food must have never tasted real junk food. Anyone who decides to quit smoking must never have smoked real cigarettes. Anyone who believes Lord of the Rings isn’t true must have never really read Lord of the Rings.  This is not only misguided, but also arrogant.  By claiming this, you’re not only supposing that you somehow know everything about me and why I do things and what was going on in my head at every period in my life, but you’re also claiming that only your version of Christianity is the correct one.

I’m sorry to have to burst your delusional bubble, but hundreds of thousands (maybe even millions) of people went from being true, devout Christians to non-believers. This includes ex-pastors, ex-apologists, ex-missionaries, ex-exorcists (which is weird to say), and just plain old ex-Christians.  If you think that none of these people were “real” Christians, then you need to explain what it is you think a “real” Christian is.  Someone who never admits that they were wrong?  Someone who sticks to unfounded beliefs, even in the face of evidence to the contrary and strong opposing arguments?

And finally, the most ignorant, misinformed, ridiculously unfounded assertion of all…

5. Your fiancée turned you away from God. Now instead of worshiping God, you worship her.

This one annoys me most of all.  Not only does it show a complete lack of scruples; not only does it advertise the claimant’s unbridled arrogance in assuming that they know everything about my relationship and my life; not only is it extremely insulting and disrespectful to suggest that the woman who plans to devote the rest of her life to my happiness has anything but my best interests in mind, but it also implies that I cannot think for myself or make intelligent, rational decisions on my own.

I am not stupid.  I am not anyone’s pawn, or puppet, or plaything.  I make my own decisions regarding what I believe or don’t believe, without consultation or direction or persuasion from anyone, and I base those decisions on science and rational inquiry, and if you don’t like the conclusions I come to, then tough.  But don’t for a second think that you can make ignorant hypotheses based on your skewed, ridiculous worldview and that I’m just going to sit around and not tell you how utterly deluded and full of shit you are. I’m patient with believers for the most part, but I’m not that patient.  I will not tolerate anything slanderous said about the woman that I love, especially if these things are said by small-minded individuals with a faith so weak that they need to completely deny that anyone could reject their faith on purely rational grounds, so as not to disrupt their worldview.

I’m very serious about this. My fiancée had nothing to do with my rejection of your religion.  I rejected Christianity for purely rational reasons, and you’d do well to accept my sincere answer, rather than substituting in a fallacious explanation from your own misinformed, unbridled imagination.

The irony here is that, after I finally admitted to her that I no longer believed in God, she actually got mad at me. She actually tried to convince me to attempt to find some kind of middle ground, if that were possible.  She was the one that kept me clinging to that last ray of religious hope.  I put in that last bit of effort to keep some degree of spirituality, just to try to make her happy.  But my heart can’t accept what I know isn’t true.  She understood and soon thereafter, she accepted this.

So anyone who even begins to claim that this woman steered me away from my faith is a coward and a moron.  If you’re reading this and you’ve said this or heard it from someone and believed it… yes, I am talking to you.  You are a moron.  And you will have no audience with me whatsoever until you stop making sad, baseless, pathetic theories and start accepting my honest and sincere explanations for why I no longer believe.

Religion in a Lab Coat: A Closer Look at Intelligent Design (Part 1)

The New Creationism

I’m not going to lie; this is a big issue for me. It’s a big issue to a lot of people. And I want to lay out all the cards on the table before I make my points, so here they are:

Card 1: Yes, I am an atheist.
Card 2: Yes, I used to be a Christian and now I’m not.
Card 3: Yes, I do believe in freedom of speech, especially on publicly-owned land.  In fact, I think I take the idea of freedom of expression a bit more seriously than most people do, as some of you know.

Having said all that, I want to make it clear that what I’m about to contend has nothing to do with any of these things.  We’re talking about science education here.  What’s at stake is the education of our children. Not religion. Not freedom of speech. And especially not the “moral fabric of society.” I’m assuming, if you’re reading this, that you are an educated person who values the knowledge that has been revealed by science, and that you see science as an indispensable tool for understanding reality and improving our society. Most people, religious or otherwise, fall into this category.

In an article that may end up including several parts, I’m going to talk about a concept that I’m quite positive most of you have heard of: Intelligent Design. Proponents of Intelligent Design (or ID, for short), claim that their views are scientific and not at all religious.  They claim that their “perfectly reasonable views” are being discriminated against in the scientific arena and in the courtrooms of America.  They claim that scientific naturalism, and indeed science itself, is insufficient to explain the reality of the universe.  They claim that ID is not Creationism, and they resent any associations made between the two.

We’re going to examine all of these claims, starting here, in Part 1.  But before we do, I think it’s important that I emphasize what we’re really talking about.

Defining Science

We all, I should hope, have been taught to have respect for science and scientific research.  But why?  What is science anyway?  Let’s take a quick look at the definition:


1. a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws.

2. systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.

There are a few details I want to highlight here.  The first, is that science deals with facts and truths. This means that science can indeed make truth-claims.  Where the sciences are concerned, either something is true, or it isn’t true, or we don’t know.  The second, is that science is concerned only with the physical or material world. It doesn’t say anything about the laws or properties of any supernatural worlds that may exist (although science can reasonably comment on whether or not an event can be attributed to a supernatural cause).  The third and most important detail is that all the knowledge claimed by science, is gained through observation and experimentation.

That’s the kicker. To be a science, it has to start first with observation. Once we make observations, we form an explanation. Then we gather data and/or conduct experiments. If enough of the data supports your explanation, then your explanation becomes scientific fact. However, if the data contradicts your explanation, you are wrong, and you go back to the drawing board.  That’s the scientific method, in a nutshell.

We live in a country that values the freedom of ideas, which is why so many people find this aspect of science difficult to accept. Science is not a democracy. The rules are very clear: if you don’t have evidence, you don’t have science. Science is conservative. It’s rigid. It’s not open to interpretation, nor is it a matter of opinion.

Keeping that in mind, let’s examine the most common claim made by defenders if ID…

“Intelligent Design is scientific and has nothing to do with religion.”

Take another look at the definition we just went over.  Does intelligent design fit any part of that description? At all? No, it doesn’t.

First, to even be considered a science, there would have to be a testable theory to work with.  There is none.  Even Michael Behe candidly admits that you “can’t prove intelligent design by experiment.” Without an actual theory to test, you don’t really have any science. All design proponents have offered so far is a hazy definition, wherein:

The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.

O-kayy? Sooo how exactly does one go about proving that? What experiments can you set up to test whether or not that’s true? You can’t. Therefore, until they can at least form a testable ID hypothesis, the “theory” isn’t even in the parking lot of the scientific arena.

In addition, ID is not falsifiable. In science, all theories and hypotheses must be falsifiable, which means that what you assert has to have the possibility of being shown false by empirical observation (note: if something is falsifiable, it doesn’t mean that it’s false… just that if it is false, we would be able to see it experimentally).

And let’s not forget Intelligent Design’s most obvious and important failure as a science: that it is supported by no evidence whatsoever. Sure, they’ve tried. They’ve thrown out canards like irreducible complexity and specified complexity. But these ideas, apart from being based completely on intuition (i.e. not testable), have long been debunked.

Now, as for the idea that ID has “nothing to do with religion,” only someone either completely naive, or completely ignorant of the history of ID would try to make this claim with a straight face.

For starters, there’s the Wedge Document written by the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture and leaked in 1998, which clearly details the objectives of the ID movement as both political and religious… not scientific.  Then we have the fact that the majority of books on ID are published by InterVarsity Press, which says of itself:

“We are a publisher of Christian books and Bible studies. As an extension of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, InterVarsity Press serves those in the university, the church and the world by publishing resources that equip and encourage people to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord in all of life.”

Then there are the scientists of faith like Kenneth Miller (Catholic) and Francis Collins (Evangelical Protestant), who are highly critical of ID, and have pointed out that the movement is clearly motivated by a particular interpretation of one or more holy books, and not by scientific integrity.  And if you still need more evidence, how about a few words from the founders of the ID movement:

“There’s a difference of opinion about how important this debate [advocating intelligent design] is. What I always say is that it’s not just scientific theory. The question is best understood as: Is God real or imaginary?”

Phillip Johnson, “The Search for Intelligent Design in the Universe”, Silicon Valley Magazine, 9 Jan. 2000.

“If we take seriously the word-flesh Christology of Chalcedon (i.e. the doctrine that Christ is fully human and fully divine) and view Christ as the telos toward which God is drawing the whole of creation, then any view of the sciences that leaves Christ out of the picture must be seen as fundamentally deficient.”

“Intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John’s Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory.”

William Dembski, Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science & Theology, Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press, 1999.

Is that enough for you?  Want more?  Here’s an excerpt from a CitizenLink interview with Dembski:

“I believe God created the world for a purpose. The Designer of intelligent design is, ultimately, the Christian God.”

Doesn’t get much more clear than that, does it?  This is Intelligent Design’s leading “champion.”  And here he is admitting that the designer is the Christian God.

Just take a look at who is advocating the teaching of Intelligent Design in public schools.  How is it being presented? Who’s arguing for it, and how? Read the excerpts from any school board meeting where the public is allowed to speak about the issue, and if you seriously still think that Intelligent Design has nothing at all to do with religion, then I’m afraid I don’t know what else would convince someone in such deep denial.

(to be continued in Part 2…)