Saturday, October 29, 2016

GOD APOLOGIZES!

According to Judeo-Christian tradition, no one is perfect, everyone has sinned—except for God, that is.  The Jewish tradition of the Day of Atonement was established to encourage all of us periodically to review our conduct, to acknowledge our sins, and to ask for forgiveness, not just of God but of our fellow humans.  It’s a great concept, I think.  But what if God took a careful look at his own conduct and realized that he too had made mistakes, that he also needed to apologize?  Here is some of what God might say.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

THE QUALITY OF EVIDENCE AND THE END OF AGNOSTICISM

Whatever happened to Zeus?  He was a big deal to the Greeks, but for the past couple thousand years he has essentially been a no-show.  Oh, sure, we still use his name, but he has been relegated to just another mythical character.  So here’s my first question: Does it make sense to say that we are agnostic regarding the existence of Zeus?

Thursday, October 6, 2016

TWEAKING MY ATHEISM

If anyone asks me if there is a god, for decades my honest answer has been, “No, I’m an atheist.”  However, having spent the last few years trying to articulate my point of view in this blog, I have come to the conclusion that I need to modify my answer—slightly.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO

   Jesus loves me—this I know,
   For the Bible tells me so.

“Jesus Loves Me,” is among the most familiar and most powerful songs in the Christian hymnbook and was one of the first songs that I learned as a young child.  The hymn’s power comes from the simplicity both of its language and of its melody, making it easy for young children to learn.  Like virtually everyone else who grew up in a Christian faith, I sang the song scores of times, at a point in my childhood when my mind was especially plastic and uncluttered by competing ideas.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

THE NATURE OF THE SOUL

In a recent conversation a fellow skeptic commented that we don’t really know what happens to us when we die.  What? I thought.  Of course we know what happens:  Our hearts stop beating, our brains stop functioning, our bodies start to decay.  But of course that’s not what he was talking about.  What he was referring to was the idea of soul.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

“IMAGINE”: A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT


What if God woke up one morning and announced that he had changed his mind, that he was calling off the whole heaven and hell thing, that this was the one and only life that we humans would have?  What then?

Friday, July 29, 2016

SATAN AS METAPHOR

Do atheists worship Satan?  Certainly not, but it’s not quite as simple as just that.  For them Satan is not a real being.  Instead he is a metaphor.

Monday, July 18, 2016

GOD’S BIG PROBLEM. SATAN TO THE RESCUE.

God has a big problem.  He is both the architect and the master builder of the universe.  Everything.  God is supposed to be omnipotent, omniscient, and omni-benevolent. Yet evil exists.  And not just evil, but massive suffering from famine, disease, and natural disasters.  How could that be?  Enter Satan to the rescue as the theological heavy.

Friday, July 15, 2016

PERSONAL MANIFESTO TIME CAPSULE

In this post I am recommending an exercise.  I am suggesting that the reader write out a personal philosophical manifesto, a list of fundamental beliefs, and place that list in some sort of time capsule to be opened at a later date to see if and how those beliefs may have changed.  That is what I did, and I thought it was a great experience, except that in my case the process was inadvertent.  Here’s how that happened.

Friday, July 8, 2016

OF THE PYTHAGOREAN THEOREM, THE HELIOCENTRIC SOLAR SYSTEM, AND PROOF IN THE NONEXISTENCE OF GOD

Anyone reading this essay is probably familiar with the story of the debate between a Christian and an atheist in which the Christian challenges the atheist to prove that God does not exist and then smugly leans back in her chair, knowing that the atheist has to admit that he can’t because “no one can prove a negative.”  But I don’t think this is the proper analysis.  The existence or nonexistence of God is not a question of proof; it is a matter of degree of certainty.

Monday, July 4, 2016

9/11 CONSPIRACIES AND THE NATURE OF SKEPTICISM

A while back I stumbled across a recent article posted on social media that claimed that the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001 was not caused by commercial passenger jets crashing into the towers.  The article was followed by a multitude of comments by persons who also disputed the conventional understanding of the events of that day and who voiced the belief that there was some sort of coverup by the government or the media or both.  True story.  Frankly, I was a shocked and dismayed.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

GRAVITY WAVES, CREATIONISM, AND THE INFALLIBILITY OF SCRIPTURE

In my discussions with creationists about evolution I have been going about things all wrong.  I have been appealing to objective evidence and rational analysis in trying to move creationists in my direction.  My efforts have been entirely unsuccessful.  To my knowledge, I have not changed the beliefs of a single creationist about the facts of evolution.  Not one.  But I think I now better understand why.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

PEANUT BUTTER, ACNE, AND THE POWER OF PRAYER

This is a true story.  I have a friend who believes that eating peanut butter causes acne.  Maybe he’s right.  Throughout my adolescent years I suffered from acne, and I’m sure I ate more than my share of peanut butter.  So I’m not necessarily disagreeing with my friend about his conclusion.  Rather, I have a problem with his research methodology.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

COUNTERFEIT COINS

One morning in the spring of my senior year at Andrews University, I found a note in my mail cubby at the dorm from the associate dean of students.  She wanted to see me.  Nearly 50 years later, I can no longer recall the dean’s name, but I can clearly recall our conversation.  What I learned from it can be summarized in one sentence:  The evidence and process we use to form our beliefs are as important as the beliefs that we form.

Friday, May 27, 2016

ON BEING FRUSTRATED BY CREATIONIST ARGUMENTS

Creationism is still a problem in the United States.  According to a 2014 Gallup poll, 42 percent of Americans believe that God created humans in their current form within the last 10,000 years.  Sadly, this percentage hasn’t changed much over the past three decades.  Encouraging, though, is the fact that the percentage of Americans who believe that humans have evolved through natural processes and without intervention by a theistic god has more than doubled over that time period and now stands at nearly 20 percent.  Of course, Western Europe is way ahead of us in this regard.

Evolution is an area where the conflict between science and fundamentalist Christianity is most acute.  Creationists have not been able to reinterpret their beliefs regarding the origins of life and of humans in the same way that they have regarding such matters as the age of the universe or the age of the earth.  That is because they haven’t found any way to concede generally accepted evolutionary processes and still maintain belief in the Genesis creation story.  Instead, creationist apologists have been reduced to denying the facts of evolution and to posing a number of arguments intended to refute evolutionary theory.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

THE 2300-DAY PROPHECY

The 2300-Day Prophecy?  My guess is that most mainstream Christians have never heard of it.  Or if they have, they think of it as some weird passage irrelevant to their faith.  But for Seventh-day Adventists, at least when I was growing up in the church, the 2300-day prophecy was fundamental.

When I abandoned my belief in God and religion in high school, belief in the 2300-day prophecy automatically fell as well.  Recently, though, I decided to take another look.  I wanted to see how my childhood religious training compared with a more, shall we say, secular understanding of this scriptural passage.  In addition, I wanted to see how the SDA church now treats this concept that had been important to its history.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

FREE WILL IN HEAVEN

Will people have free will in heaven?  Why would I ask such a silly question?  My answer is that I want to make a point, and to do that I need to back up a bit and pose a series of questions.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

THE SECOND COMING

The concept of Christ’s Second Coming remains a fundamental tenet of Christian belief.  Theoretically speaking, its importance is massive in terms of its overall role in the salvation story.  But the truth is that the concept of the Second Coming doesn’t actually make logical sense.

Friday, March 4, 2016

SOFTLY AND TENDERLY

It was Saturday night in the late spring of 1958 and the world was coming to an end soon.  Very soon.

Our church was crowded with regulars as well as with interested visitors who, encouraged by extensive marketing in local media, had come to hear the final in a two-week-long series of sermons given by one of Seventh-day Adventist's most charismatic evangelists, Pastor Wilson.  I would have preferred staying home to watch Gunsmoke or Perry Mason, but as a 13 year old I didn’t have any choice but to accompany my parents and my older sisters to the service.

BAPTISM

I got baptized on a Friday night in the late spring of my 12th year.  During the vespers service a half dozen of my fifth grade classmates and I were shepherded to a warren-like area behind the church’s baptistry, where we were each handed a white cotton robe and assigned to separate cubicles to undress and put on our robe.  Then, following a series of prayers, one by one we waded into the warm, waist-deep water of the baptistry pool, where an associate pastor, also decked out in a robe, was standing waiting for us. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

FREE WILL AS TELEKINESIS

As a boy I was fascinated by claims of paranormal phenomena—mental telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance, and the like.  I would spend inordinate amounts of time conducting “experiments” in which I would try to guess the suit of each of the cards in a deck to see if I could score above a chance level.  I apparently lack paranormal powers.  When I was 12 or 13 I recall watching a TV “documentary” concerning a boy about my age who supposedly could make physical objects move just with his mind.  He was accused of various mischievous acts, such as knocking objects off shelves or turning a cupboard upside down.  According to the show, even though the boy was responsible for the paranormal activity, he was doing it subconsciously rather than intentionally.  I was so frightened by the show that I had a hard time falling asleep afterward, concerned that I might inadvertently possess the same paranormal abilities.  Not to worry, as it turned out.