Thursday, November 20, 2014

God's QC 10.10: Jesus And The One Percent

Here I continue my thoughts on the question whether Jesus can be regarded as a compassionate figure with respect to his attitude toward the needy. To prepare for my previous video and this one, I combed the Gospels for verses that I have come to call money verses, in which Jesus says anything that can be related to the topic of socioeconomic status. I said I had found 250 such verses, but I made a bad mistake in my spreadsheet. The actual count is about 370. Fortunately, the mistake doesn't invalidate anything in the previous video, but I do apologize for the error. The number of money verses is important for this video as well. Jesus gives us about 370. Everything he ever says in favor of the poor or as a warning to the rich comprises only about 60 of these. What can we learn about the mind of Jesus from the remaining 300 or so verses? Let's have a look:

Jesus loves rich people. He exerts literally ten times as much effort telling stories about them as he spends giving lip service to charity. There is only one beggar in all of his parables. We see a handful blue-collar types with homes to live in, food to spare, and easy access to officials in the local law courts. The remainder of his characters own livestock, fishing boats, gardens, farms, vineyards. Some are merchants; others, moneylenders. Some Jesus describes simply as rich, but most he describes in detail. They throw big parties and invite rich friends, or travel long distances to attend their friends' parties. Some develop their lands and use them for commercial purposes. Some have wealth that Jesus presents simply as treasures, while others have cold, hard cash.

Many of his stories are about people with servants. It is interesting to note that Jesus has a few of these "servants" being beaten, some severely. These aren't employees; they're property. We saw him botch his chance to comment on poverty; now we see him botch another big chance, telling stories about slaves without addressing slavery. Without even noticing it.

Revisiting one of the "weeping and gnashing of teeth" stories, we again meet the gangster who goes on a long journey after instructing his servants to invest some of his extra cash. He entrusts them with over $3M. When he returns, they have grown his investment to over $6M. Have a look at the video description if you're interested in how I arrived at these figures. In a different version of this particular story, the protagonist assigns less money to be invested, but this time he is a king who rewards his servants with lordship over entire cities. And not just one or two: he gives his two best performers authority over a total of 15 cities.

Jesus turns positively baroque spinning yarns about vineyards and wineries. In one story, a landowner finds himself in an entrepreneurial mood. He plants a vineyard, builds a wall around it, and constructs a winepress and a watchtower. But he doesn't build a home there, as this is strictly an investment property. He rents it out and moves away--why live near the rabble if you can afford not to? When the rent comes due, the tenants refuse to pay. But no matter, the man has an enormous supply of servants--or slaves--whom he can send to their deaths in futile attempts to collect. If it were anyone other than Jesus telling the story, I would take it as depicting an immensely profitable winery; otherwise, the owner would not have sacrificed so much other property just to collect the rent. But it is more likely that Jesus simply has no head for business, as also shown in the stories where he imagines that a shepherd would risk 99 sheep just to save one that has been lost.

Although Jesus does mutter a few words about greed, materialism, and smugness, he is clearly interested only in the sentiments of the rich, and oblivious to the more practical concern of how they treat the less fortunate. In one of his vineyard stories, the operation is thriving so well that the owner desperately visits the marketplace five times in one day to get enough laborers to work his land. There is so much work to be done that he is willing to hire people at the very end of the day. He can afford to pay even these a full days' wages after they have worked only one hour. When those who have worked all day complain about being paid the same as the latecomers, Jesus defends the rich man's right to treat the workers unfairly. Worse: the rich man's right to behave this way is the entire point of the story.

With a little creativity, any of Jesus' moral teachings could have been imparted with stories about the needy. He clearly has quite an imagination; I can only conclude that the needy simply weren't on his mind.

That's 10.10. Thanks for watching.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

God's QC 10.9: Jesus And The Needy

Here I continue my thoughts on the question whether Jesus can be regarded as a compassionate figure with respect to his attitude toward the needy. Many people believe that this character is a champion of the poor. But as we will see, Jesus is hardly aware of actual poor people, seeing them mostly as an abstract concept, when he bothers to notice them at all. He has almost nothing to say to them, or even about them. Most of his sayings that are widely considered relevant to the needy turn out to be empty, or even injurious. Let's have a look.

After adjusting for all the narrative overlap in the four Gospels, I find that it takes Jesus about 1500 verses to say everything he wants to say. About 250 make up sayings and stories that contain elements with some bearing on socioeconomic status. One would think that most of these might have something to do with the plight of the needy: that he might vigorously goad comfortable people to be charitable; that he might gear his sayings to the realities of life for those in need, perhaps even that he would field some ideas on eliminating poverty altogether.

Sadly, this is not the case. Instead, precisely two of his sayings are addressed directly to the truly downtrodden. In Luke 6, we find that if you're poor and hungry, well, you're blessed. Although he indeed calls on people to give a real blessing to the poor by actually helping them, he does so only three times, and never very convincingly. His best attempt is in Luke 11, where he exhorts the Pharisees, in order to be ritually clean, to be generous to the poor. An appeal to their piety might actually be a good motivator. But that one suggestion is the best he can do, as it is the only one that can be even remotely construed as concern for the needy. Unless we allow for the dimwit hypothesis we discussed in Episode 10.7. In Luke 18, Jesus encourages a rich man to sell his possessions and give to the poor. That might feed a few people, but many more could be fed if the man were to manage his wealth to help the poor over the long term.

But when Jesus spells out the reason we should follow his advice, we can see that dimwittery, although it is a factor, is not the primary factor. In Luke 14, he admonishes those with the means to throw parties to snub their rich friends and invite the poor. Sounds nice, if there is a party somewhere in town every day, which is about how often people need to eat. But the poor are beside the point, as Jesus explains that this is about one's relationship with God.

It's downhill from here, as every one of his remaining comments that mention the needy is about said relationship. In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us to do our charitable giving in secret. This admonition has met with approval throughout the centuries, but I consider it grotesque. It's not about the needy at all. It's about the supremely petty concerns of those who have the means to give and their relationship with others who have the means to give. If Jesus had spent two seconds thinking about what really matters, that is, feeding hungry people, he would have imparted exactly the opposite advice. He would have told us to announce our giving with trumpets, to make the needy more visible to those who might give, and to sting the consciences of our well fed fellows.

In the fourth chapter of Luke, Jesus says that he has come to preach the good news to the poor. Does he mean news about where to find some food? No. So it's not good news. In Matthew 25, he condemns people to hell for not feeding and clothing his brothers and sisters. But who are his brothers and sisters? The poor? No. As he makes abundantly clear, his brothers and sisters are those who do the will of his father, and in particular, people with the leisure to follow him around ancient Palestine rather than scrabbling for their next meal.

Jesus does issue a handful of stern warnings to the rich and well fed. One of these warnings even mentions that beggars will be comforted in the afterlife. But as ever, nothing about addressing the suffering that occurs right now, right here on Earth. Further, given how much he hangs out with rich people, amply availing himself of their generous support, it is hard to know what to make of these warnings.

Shockingly, although he in fact does address poverty directly, he says precisely the wrong thing, turning the empty blessings of Luke 6 into a solid curse in John 12: the poor you will always have with you.

It is quite clear that Jesus never gives even a moment's thought to the actual suffering of actual human beings.

That's 10.9. Thanks for watching.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

God's QC Special: Wild Billshit For America

A poem for YouTuber WildBillForAmerica

jesus christ

jesus christ
Should never be permitted
jesus christ
Should not hold public office
jesus christ
Should not be around Children
jesus christ

Thinking people
The right path
Smart people

You'll fall for anything
You'll fall for anything
jesus christ
You'll fall for anything
Horrible fate
You'll fall for anything

Men and women of faith
Dismember Truth
Manipulate Children's beliefs
You'll fall for anything

jesus christ

Faith is a bad thing

jesus christ

Anyone who is not willing to


From such things
Should not be around Children

If you don't stand for what is Right
You'll fall for any immoral perversion

Monday, October 27, 2014

God's QC 10.8: Jesus And The 99%

Here I continue my thoughts on the question whether Jesus can be regarded as a compassionate figure, moving now to his attitude toward the needy. Naturally, most of what we can learn on this topic will be found in his teachings. But in this video, I'll take a few moments to consider the backdrop for those teachings. Specifically, the circumstances into which he is born, and the lifestyle he chooses as an adult. Let's have a look:

The bible tells us that the infant Jesus has to sleep in a barnyard feeding trough. This is frequently taken as a sign that he is born into poverty, but that is to ignore some important details of the story. For example, it isn't because they are poor that Jesus sleeps in a manger. It is because there are no available guest rooms. Even if this were to suggest that they couldn't afford a room, soon after the child is born, Magi from Herod arrive with expensive gifts, including gold.

But there is a good reason that the biblical nativity stories don't say that Joseph and Mary are poor: they're not. Consider how much traveling they do. Before Mary leaves her father's house to live with Joseph, she visits her cousin Elizabeth in Judea, to celebrate the news that Mary will give birth to the Messiah. Although Christian tradition makes this an eight-day round trip, the bible isn't specific. But it does seem that the journey can't be fewer than four days. It's unsafe to go alone, so she must join other travelers, or bring her own companions. Food and other supplies must be drawn from a household surplus, or they must be purchased along the way.

These same conditions apply later, when Joseph and the heavily pregnant Mary travel four days from Nazareth to Bethlehem. With their new child, they head back to Nazareth via an indefinite stopover in Egypt. Given that Egypt is a good 200 miles in the wrong direction, that's a full month away from home, even if they were to stay for only one night. But apparently they spend some time there, awaiting the death of Herod. It seems unlikely for the average Joseph to walk into a foreign town and immediately find work. Either manna falls to them from heaven, or the family has respectable material reserves available. We also find that they make the customary pilgrimage to Jerusalem every year--a round trip of eight days.

It must seem to Mary that every time they make the trip, it is with one more child than the time before, as she bears at least six more after Jesus. But having so many mouths to feed does not seem to drive the family into poverty. Consider: it is in Capernaum that Mary and her other sons attempt to take Jesus home for fear that he has lost his mind. This is the second time we find his family making the three-day trip from Nazareth to Capernaum and back. Or perhaps the first time was just a reconnaissance mission in preparation for completely uprooting their lives to move to Capernaum. Also note that Jesus begins his ministry with a fast lasting 40 days. Voluntary fasting is a luxury; 40 days of it extremely so, enough to suggest that he is reasonably well fed in general.

Jesus and his pals are shown quite a bit of hospitality over the course of their ministry. To keep up their strength between extravagant feasts, the well-to-do Mary of Bethany and "many other" women provide material support for his entire horde. And Jesus had the extravagance part worked out in advance: a "great banquet" for him and a large crowd of tax collectors is hosted by none other than homeboy Matthew. Maybe Jesus doesn't suck at choosing disciples after all. The wedding reception at which he converts water to wine is a gala affair attended by servants. Soirees are held at the homes of a couple of different Pharisees, but these are humbler affairs, servants not included. Passing through Jericho, Jesus invites himself to stay at the house of Zacchaeus, a very wealthy chief tax collector. The Last Supper, secretly prearranged by Jesus, takes place in a home with a furnished upstairs guest room large enough to accommodate 13 men.

Jesus is born into comfortable circumstances. He chooses friends from comfortable circumstances, some lavishly so. He loves being wined, dined, and put up in cozy accommodations, and he's not shy about demanding it. This is the backdrop. The stage is set for Jesus to demonstrate his attitude toward the needy.

That's 10.8. Thanks for watching.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

God's QC 10.7: Jesus: Meanie Or Dimwit?

Here I continue my thoughts on the disconnect between what the bible says about Jesus and what most people, superstitious or otherwise, tend to believe about him. In this video, I'll continue to explore the question whether Jesus can be considered a compassionate figure.

Now that we've spent a solid 20 minutes draining a sea of caustic sludge away from the Jesus character, have we finally found signs of compassion? No, but we have finally begun moving in the right direction. Now, rather than a bewildering nightmare, we just have a meanie.

Many of you have heard of the concept known widely as Hanlon's Razor. The idea is that that one should not attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. So maybe, rather than a meanie, just a clueless dimwit. Or maybe both. To answer the question, let's look at Jesus through the eyes of his victims.

Of all the cruelty Jesus dishes out, he saves some of his best for his own disciples, Peter in particular. In Matthew Chapter 14, when Peter makes a gigantic leap of faith and then wavers slightly, Jesus fails even to notice the leap, but instead scolds Peter for doubting. In Chapter 16, Jesus announces to his disciples that he will soon be tortured to death. When Peter expresses perfectly sane and normal outrage, Jesus severely chastises him, calling him a stumbling block, even calling him Satan. In Chapter 26, Peter affirms his steadfast loyalty to Jesus. Rather than expressing the slightest warm sentiment in return, Jesus smacks him down with a good shaming, sniping that several times in the near future, Peter will deny that he even knows Jesus. A surprise in Chapter 17: Jesus pays Peter's taxes. It seems rather unfair that he doesn't pay taxes for anyone else, but perhaps some karmic force is at work here, providing a small consolation to Peter for the excess of bad treatment he receives from Jesus.

In Chapter 8, we see Jesus contemptuously dismissing the grief of a man who has just lost his father. Also in Chapter 8, he deliberately causes significant losses to innocent pig farmers. In Chapter 19, he verbally bitch-slaps a man for asking how to avoid hell. In Chapter 22, he announces that there is no sex in heaven. This, he could have kept to himself.

Jesus is clearly a racist, as he demonsrates in Chapter 10, when he expressly denies to the Gentiles and Samaritans the privilege of hearing the Gospel. There's more in Chapter 15, but now accompanied by worse than racism, at every possible level. A woman follows him and his disciples, begging them to heal her daughter, who is demon-possessed and suffering terribly. Jesus ignores her. The disciples, by now fully initiated to his hateful philosophy, fail to ask Jesus to help her, but instead urge him to send her away. Having no regard for real suffering, but not wanting his buddies to be inconvenienced, he obliges them, explaining to her that her terribly suffering daughter, having been born to the wrong parents, is ineligible for mercy. The woman falls to her knees and begs him again, and he rebuffs her again, calling her a dog. But when she pumps his ego by abjectly endorsing his slur, he is so flattered that he abandons all his principles. Having heaped breathtaking abuse on her for annoying him and his pals, he turns effusively generous when she engages his metaphor, rolling like a dog onto her back in wretched submission.

In Chapters 8, 9, and 15, we find Jesus commending and rewarding six different people for their exemplary faith. Strangely, he doesn't invite any of them to become his disciples, although clearly they would have been far more effective than the disciples he chose. Here, the stupidity explanation seems likely, given that he spends so much of his time complaining about the inadequate faith of his chosen ones. On top of stupidity, a pronounced failure of introspection, as he always blames them for their lack of faith, rather than simply admitting the truth: that he sucks at choosing disciples. Further examples of incompetence and finger-pointing can be found in Chapters 15 and 16, when he scolds them all for their inability to understand his badly presented, nonsensical teachings.

The character we have found in this video is perfectly summarized in Chapter 20. As Jesus departs the town of Jericho, two blind men call out, begging him for mercy. His response? "What do you want me to do for you?" Given the circumstances, only a bastard or an idiot would ask such a question.

That's 10.7. Thanks for watching.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

God's QC 10.6: Orgasmic Jesus

Here I continue my thoughts on the disconnect between what the bible says about Jesus and what most people, superstitious or otherwise, tend to believe about him. In this video, I'll continue to explore the question whether Jesus can be considered a compassionate figure.

Having progressively stripped away much of the Gospel story over the course of my previous four videos, we have yet to find a version of Jesus that lives up to his reputation. The least malignant Jesus we have found carries out his ministry casually unaware of the actual suffering of actual human beings. Sadly, that flavor of Jesus is all but obliterated by the only other Jesus we have found so far, a psychopath who spends much of his time lecherously fantasizing about people being hideously punished.

What sort of character emerges when we tear out all the elements that make up these two repugnant options? More of the same: a lunatic with a head full of nightmares. Let's have a look:
  • In Matthew 5 and again in Chapter 18, Jesus offers these two gems: if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out; if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. Perhaps unsurprisingly, almost every Christian who has ever lived has applied a supremely generous interpretation to this advice. I find such license unsupportable for many reasons, beginning with Jesus' choice to use such grotesque imagery.
  • In Chapter 21, we have the story of a landlord who sends his servants to collect rent payments. The tenants beat one of the servants and kill two others: one by some unspecified means, the other by stoning. Like a dumbass, the landlord sends more servants, whom the tenants treat as badly as the first group. Like a serious dumbass, the landlord sends his son, whom the tenants kill. As we've seen before, Jesus is playfully creative with his tales of woe. Having thoroughly awakened the bloodlust of his audience, he invites them to imagine a horrible fate for the murderous tenants.
  • In Chapter 5, Jesus conjures images of persecution, false accusation, and indefinite imprisonment.
  • In Chapter 7, he tells the story of a man's home being utterly destroyed by a storm.
  • In Chapter 13, a story of neighboring farmers ruining each other's crops.
  • In Chapter 15, blind people falling into a pit.
  • In Chapter 20, day laborers-being treated badly by the rich. It is interesting to note that Jesus defends the rich here.
  • In Chapter 10, Jesus lewdly visualizes family members pitted against each other. He savors their strife, enumerating specific relationships: brother to brother, father to child, children to parents, all of them betraying each other and having each other killed. He regains his composure for a moment but quickly falls back into his salacious reverie, chanting a passage from an Old Testament prophet, man against fatherdaughter against motherdaughter-in-law against mother-in-law. But this is no idle fantasy, as he announces that he intends to cause all this torment. In fact, he says that he has come to Earth not to bring peace, but a sword with which to tear families apart. He wastes no time, planting the first seeds on the spot, proclaiming that if you love your father, or mother, or son, or daughter more than you love Jesus, then you are not worthy of him. It seems that violent discord among family members is his second favorite fetish, as he continues aggressively to cultivate it in Chapter 12 and again in Chapter 19.
  • Jesus' ghastly imagination reaches a fever pitch in Chapter 24 as he contemplates the end times: war, famine, earthquakes, persecution, execution, betrayal, hate, distress unparalleled in all of human history. And although after his resurrection he'll be gone for an embarrassingly long time, he'll come back just in time to experience the moment of orgasm in all this horror. Will it be good for us too? Verse 30 tells us: all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming.
Even after ripping the Jesus story to shreds, we have yet to find a remotely compassionate character. Instead, we're left with one whose mind is positively overflowing with poisonous ideas and gruesome imagery.

That's 10.6. Thanks for watching.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

God's QC 10.5: Punishment Porn, Jesus Style

Here I continue my thoughts on the disconnect between what the bible says about Jesus and what most people, superstitious or otherwise, tend to believe about him. In this video, I'll continue to explore the question whether Jesus can be considered a compassionate figure.

So far, we have discovered that even when we ignore his belief in eternal punishment, Jesus falls far short of his reputation. We have observed him positively reveling in stories of people being brutally punished, punctuating each gruesome scenario with the gleeful reminder that: there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Sadly, his punishment fetish does not end there. Let's have a look:
  • In Matthew 5, for the sin of being angry with one's fellow humans, Jesus proposes punishment by fire.
  • In Chapter 11, he makes a pronouncement concerning the city of Sodom. You may recall the story of Sodom from the Book of Genesis: Jesus' merciful father massacred its inhabitants--from infants to the elderly--with a rain of fiery sulphur that burned them to death. Jesus finds this punishment incomplete, as he calls for a further day of judgment for Sodom.
  • In Matthew 12 we discover that Jesus finds delight not only in physical punishment, but also psychological trauma. On judgment day, each of us will be forced to provide an explanation of—and face condemnation for—every idle comment we have ever made.
  • In Chapter 18, Jesus is playfully creative in describing the punishment for causing one of his followers to stumble. Rather than providing details, he invites us to imagine a fate worse than being drowned at the bottom of the sea.
  • Also in Chapter 18, another delicious tale of brutality. A man owes the king 20 years' worth of wages. It is ordered that the man and his family be sold to cover the king's losses. When the man begs for mercy, the king cancels the debt. The man himself is owed one day's wages by a fellow citizen, but refuses to forgive, demanding jail time. The king becomes angry and, uhh, sells the man and his family to cover his losses, right? No. He hands the man over to the jailers. To be tortured. For how long? Until the debt—that is, 20 years' wages—is repaid. Note that the king, being king after-all, presumably has at his fingertips countless means for encouraging mercy and compassion in his kingdom. If nothing else, a humane king could simply change the law to eliminate jail sentences for debt. What is this king's preferred solution? Terror. Be merciful or be hideously tortured. Jesus ends this lovely parable with, This is how my heavenly father will treat each of you.
  • In Chapter 22, Jesus tells a story that begins with, The kingdom of heaven is like this... I touched on it in my previous video, because it's a story that ends with weeping and gnashing of teeth. It's the one about the guy who is tied up and thrown out of the royal wedding banquet because of the dress code. But there's more: leading up to the banquet, the king sends his servants to summon those who have been invited. These invitees dismiss the summons and send the servants home. The petulant king reissues the summons. This time, an outrage: the invitees mistreat and even kill the servants. As often happens as we learn about the kingdom of heaven, our outrage turns to incredulity: the king sends his army to burn their city. Jesus is casually unaware that this would likely result in the deaths of many people who had nothing to do with the crime, not to mention causing no end of suffering to those who survive, who must endure the loss of loved ones, friends, homes, livelihoods.
Even when we ignore his predilection for weeping and gnashing of teeth, we find not a compassionate Jesus, but a deeply disturbed individual with a pornographic fixation on punishment.

That's 10.5. Thanks for watching.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

God's QC 10.4: The Monster Gnash

Here I continue my thoughts on the disconnect between what the bible says about Jesus and what most people, superstitious or otherwise, tend to believe about him. In this video, I'll continue to explore the question whether Jesus can be considered a compassionate figure.

As I found while making my two previous videos, it is important to be clear which flavor of Jesus we're talking about. For this video, it won't matter whether Jesus is human or divine, and it won't matter whether he is real or fictional. What will matter is what he believes. Let's assume that he believes everything he says, including all the supernatural claims, except for one. We have to exclude his belief that some people will experience eternal punishment. To understand why we must do so, see my previous video.

The mental effort required for this exception is far less strenuous than that needed for most exceptions commonly made for Jesus. Matthew is the only evangelist who records Jesus using the phrase eternal punishment, and it occurs only once, in Chapter 25. We need only remove the word eternal from the chapter. Is the resulting Jesus a compassionate character? The answer lies in the remaining word: punishment. Or more specifically, Jesus' attitude toward punishment. Let's have a look.

According to Matthew, Jesus uses the phrase weeping and gnashing of teeth six times. This already sounds a little bit too enthusiastic for my tastes, but the real fun begins when we read Jesus' rather graphic descriptions of the unfair and wildly disproportionate punishments that will cause all this weeping and gnashing.
  • In Chapter 8, Jesus issues a warning to Jews in general—or to Christians, depending on your interpretation—that those who are unworthy to be subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
  • In Chapter 25, we hear a parable about a gangster with three servants. He assigns each servant the task of investing a portion of his estate for profit while he goes away on gangster business. One servant is paralyzed by fear of his master, and ends up doing nothing. When the gangster returns, he ignores the servant's fear and judges him to be wicked, lazy, worthless. The servant's punishment is again to be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
As an aside, note that the master's behavior is an excellent sketch of Yahweh's intentions toward us: we are brought into the world without our consent, required to perform beyond our abilities, and then punished for our failure. Go Yahweh.
  • In Chapter 22, Jesus tells the parable of a royal wedding banquet where a guest is found to be improperly dressed. That is his only sin, but this is Yahweh's party and it can cry if it wants to. For this fashion faux pas, the king's order is, Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
  • In Chapter 24, we have another parable about a servant, this time left in charge of the household while the master is away. At least in this story, we can be outraged at the servant's behavior: among various abuses of the master's trust, the servant also begins to beat his fellow servants. But our outrage turns to incredulity at the master's choice of punishment: he will cut [the servant] to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be—well, you know the drill.
  • In Chapter 13 there are two mentions of weeping and gnashing. Jesus refers to the wicked and those who do evil. Given his fixation on sexual immorality, the wickedness and evil he speaks of must include lusting after women and other trivial, so-called sins. The punishment is to be thrown by angels into a blazing furnace.
Removing the eternal from eternal punishment gives us a Jesus that is better than the supernatural savior, but only in the sense that the scope of his sadism is finite. He doesn't believe in eternal punishment, but he clearly takes great pleasure in the idea of people being severely punished. If we're ever going to find a compassionate Jesus, we'll have to remove many more words from the Gospels.

That's 10.4. Thanks for watching.

Monday, July 28, 2014

God's QC 10.3: Our Compassionate Savior

Here I continue my thoughts on the many bizarre disconnects that occur among those who profess to follow Jesus. In this video, I'll continue to explore the question whether Jesus was in fact a compassionate figure, and thus whether the shocking lack of compassion among his followers is indeed the grotesque hypocrisy it might seem to be.

I made a mistake in my previous video, in not making it clear exactly which Jesus I was talking about. It seems to me that there are three primary flavors of Jesus. First, the savior, the Jesus who emerges from an acceptance of the entire Gospel account, complete with supernatural mission and supernatural powers. Second, the merely human Jesus, fictional or not, surrounded by tales of his compassionate miracles. People who like this Jesus see these fictional stories as inspiring metaphor. Third, the Jesus whose story is stripped of all hints of the supernatural. People who like this Jesus find inspiration in a carefully selected subset of his words while rejecting most of the story as legendary.

It was the second flavor of Jesus that I intended in the previous video, but I didn't make that clear, and I apologize for the oversight. Fortunately, some of you called me on it, which prompted me to think it through—always a good thing—and to make this video—I'll leave it to you to decide whether that was a good thing.

You who spoke up mentioned that Christians would likely defend Jesus' cavalier attitude toward suffering, especially with respect to his efforts to get himself crucified rather than devoting himself to alleviating human misery. Christians would say that he rightly focused primarily on his mission to save the world from eternal suffering in the afterlife, leaving little time for him to address all the temporary suffering of this life. That is the first Jesus, the supernatural character who came to save us from hell. It is very illuminating to ask whether that Jesus would inspire compassion in his followers. Let's have a look.

In Matthew Chapter 19 and Luke Chapter 18, Jesus declares that the kingdom of heaven belongs to children. This is usually interpreted to mean that children are guaranteed a place in heaven. In Matthew Chapters 7 and 22, and Luke Chapter 13, Jesus proclaims that a vanishingly small fraction of humankind will be allowed into heaven. In other words, the vast majority of humans who live beyond childhood will burn in hell. Compassion leaves room for only one course of action: kill all children, those alive now and any who are born in the future, to ensure their entrance into heaven by preventing them graduating from childhood into almost certain doom. Compassion demands a determined effort to drive humans to extinction as quickly as possible, to minimize the number of people in hell. The deafening silence from Jesus on this matter is a far worse failure of compassion than any of the trifling complaints I could ever make against the other flavors of Jesus.

As an aside, a similarly unfathomable failure of compassion occurs among those who expect to go to heaven: they imagine for themselves eternal bliss and ecstasy, knowing full well that the overwhelming majority of their fellow humans—even many of their own loved ones—are in torment every second of every day without reprieve, ever. These "saints" will even spend much—if not all—of their eternity falling on their faces to praise and glorify the hideous creature who condemned the rest of us.

But is hell really all that bad? Almost everyone watching this video has spoken to Christians who, having no stomach for fire-torture, piously intone that "hell" is just a place of separation from "god". But even minor discomfort, extended into eternity, is a horror beyond imagination. Substituting "separation from god" for "being burned with fire" changes nothing relative to the question of whether Jesus truly cared about suffering.

The savior Jesus of the Gospels is an unspeakable monster. Given this conclusion, it is clear that modern Christians are innocent of the charge of hypocrisy with respect to their shocking lack of compassion. They are simply following Jesus' lead.

That's 10.3. Thanks for watching.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

God's QC 10.2: Immigration / Acts of Compassion

Here I continue my thoughts on the surprising disconnect between what Christians claim to believe and their actual attitudes and behaviors. In this video, I'll show that the astounding lack of compassion among Christians is not at all the ugly hypocrisy it seems to be. A friend of mine pointed me to a recent commentary by Stephen Colbert that demonstrates the typical Christian response to the Central American refugee crisis, which is laughably referred to as an immigration problem. On the surface, this commentary might seem to be an exposé of Christian pretense to compassion:
Bill O'Reilly: I feel bad, as I said: if I were in South or Central America or Mexico, I'd try to get's not the immigrants' fault.
Broken-hearted...we all really feel bad for these kids.
Laura Ingraham: I've been in Central America many times; I have a Guatemalan daughter, now an American citizen. I speak Spanish. I love the Latin American people. First thing you do is start deporting people. Not by the hundreds, not by the dozens, but by the thousands.
Shocking, you might say, for people who claim to follow Jesus, who has a reputation of great sympathy for those who suffer, a reputation common even among my fellow asuperstitionists. But was Jesus a promoter of compassion, an opponent of human misery? Let's look for clues in his behavior.

The Gospel of Matthew reports, in 4:23, that "Jesus went throughout Galilee... healing every disease and sickness among the people." Similar healings of indefinite but presumably large numbers of people are mentioned four more times, in chapters 8, 9, 12, and 15. He healed the lame and the crippled. He healed those suffering from severe pain, demon-possession, seizures, paralysis, blindness, mutism. Further, there are some 14 other stories of Jesus healing one or two people at a time.

According to Matthew 14:20, Jesus fed some 15,000 or more somewhere near the Sea of Galilee, and—if we consider 15:37 to be anything more than a copying error—he fed a further 12,000 or more on a separate occasion.

Given so much healing and feeding, one might be tempted to say that Jesus was a man of great compassion, a man who understood suffering and worked hard to minimize it. But there are a couple of incredible failures of compassion in Jesus' actions, failures that should cause anyone who reveres Jesus to reconsider their opinion.

The most obvious failure of compassion on Jesus' part is that although he had unprecedented skill at healing the sick and feeding the hungry, he didn't make more than a part-time job of either one. Instead, he spent much of his time preaching nonsense, arguing with the Jewish leaders, and eventually getting himself killed, cutting short a promising career as a healer. It seems that great compassion would result in different priorities.

Another failure, perhaps less obvious but certainly more consequential, is that he never bothered to teach anyone else how to heal the sick and feed the hungry. Matthew 10:1 tells us that Jesus gave his 12 disciples "authority" to heal (although apparently not the authority to feed). This "authority" turns out to have been limited: 17:19 tells us that the disciples encountered a demon that could not be cast out. Did Jesus teach them how to solve this problem, so they could go forth and cure more people? No, he simply scolded them for not having enough faith. Further, he didn't instruct his disciples to teach their craft to others, as the skill of healing seems to have disappeared not more than a few decades after Jesus' death.

But just think, instead of a handful of men helping—at the most—a few thousand people, and over a span of maybe two generations, Jesus could have started a school of healing and feeding that would have made a real difference throughout the world and throughout history. Again, it seems that such an effort would have been among the top priorities of someone who actually cares about suffering. And the remainder of the New Testament makes it abundantly clear that Jesus never gave his Apostles any guidance in this area. Obviously, he didn't care, and he didn't encourage them to care.

Based on Jesus' minimal and lukewarm efforts at mitigating human suffering, one can see that modern Christians are innocent of the charge of hypocrisy with respect to their shocking lack of compassion. They are simply following Jesus' lead.

That's 10.2. Thanks for watching.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

God's QC 11.8: Nye-Ham Debate: Burgess

Here I continue my thoughts on the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on Feb 4 2014 at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. In this video I'll address the comments made by Stuart Burgess, one of the scientists that Ken Ham trotted out when trying to demonstrate that creationists can also be scientists.

The fundamental error in Ham's use of Burgess—and his other show dogs Faulkner and Damadian—is his emphasis on the irrelevant question whether a person can be both a creationist and a scientist. Of course a person can be both; Isaac Newton himself was a superstitious crackpot. But that is not what matters here. What matters is whether a person is actually engaging in science while undertaking a given activity. When the renowned scientist Francis Collins chooses superstition because he sees a frozen waterfall, he is not engaging in science. When the renowned charlatan Ken Ham formulates and tests a hypothesis that a museum dedicated to stupidity will cause superstitious nincompoops to empty their pockets into his hands, he is engaging in science.

Stuart Burgess is a professor of engineering design who has published many scientific papers relating to mechanical engineering: hinges and joints for robotic machinery, dental materials, bicycle design. Is Dr. Burgess a scientist? Obviously. Did he engage in science when he researched these areas and published these papers? Absolutely. But consider this statement, which Ken Ham presented during the debate:
From my research work, I have found that the scientific evidence fully supports creationism as the best explanation to origins.
Did Dr. Burgess engage in science when he gathered this evidence and when he concluded that said evidence supports creationism? Given only this bold but rather vague assertion, it's impossible to say. To learn more, I contacted him directly by email to ask about his research relating to creationism. We ended up having a mostly empty conversation lasting two weeks, which boiled down to two primary points:
  1. Evolutionary theory is false, therefore there must be a designer.
  2. The "brilliance of design in the natural world" indicates that said designer is exactly like the one described in the bible.
Honest. After a total of 17 emails between us, these two points are literally all he was able to provide.

During the course of the conversation, he suggested that I read his book, "Hallmarks of Design". The first chapter, which was all I could stomach, is dedicated to showing that evolutionary theory is false. He refers to the supposed irreducible complexity of the human knee joint. Being a true follower of Yahweh, Dr. Burgess tells a big fat lie, saying, "According to evolution, all the characteristics of the knee have evolved one at a time." Anyone able to read can spend half an hour reading and find that evolutionary theory says nothing like this. And clearly, even if evolutionary theory were utterly false, it wouldn't necessarily imply that there is a designer.

Concerning the second point, his claim that the natural world indicates that the designer is indeed the "god" of the bible, Dr. Burgess is more correct than he realizes. He looks at the world and sees "brilliance", which, according to him, suggests the "god" of the bible. But obviously, at least to anyone who has actually read the bible, the "god" described there is hideous. One might observe the existence of viruses and cancers, and conclude, as Dr. Burgess has, although in a sense that would scandalize him, that the world does indeed indicate the "god" of the bible.

Near the end of our conversation, Dr. Burgess, perhaps unwittingly, rephrased the bold assertion he made for Ken Ham, saying instead, "[M]y work fully supports my belief in creation." Note the lack of mention of science, and the shift from "fully supports creationism" to "fully supports my belief". When I asked him whether this version was what he intended to say in the Ken Ham video, he brought the conversation to an abrupt end by throwing bible verses at me.

Is Dr. Stuart Burgess a scientist? Yes. Has he actually found any scientific evidence that supports creationism? No. Did he engage in science to reach his conclusions about creationism? No. His conclusions are not based on science, or for that matter, on critical thinking, or even honesty.

That's 11.8. Thanks for watching.

Monday, February 17, 2014

God's QC 11.7: Nye - Ham: Hijacked

Here I continue my thoughts on the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on Feb 4 2014 at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. In this video I'll consider some more examples of superstitionists hijacking terminology. Let's start with one of my personal favorites:

“ aren't being taught to think critically...we're teaching people to think critically...”

One aspect of critical thinking involves asking questions. For example, questions like, “What does that have to do with anything?” When Bill Nye said that we have ice cores representing winter/summer cycles going back 680k years, Ham's response was that some 50-year-old airplanes were once found in Greenland under 250 feet of ice. But what does that have to do with what Nye said? Nothing. If Ham had said something about 250 winter/summer cycles forming in 50 years, that would have been news. But he didn't say that; he said 250 feet. He didn't say a word about whether anyone, qualified or otherwise, had taken a core sample to learn about the nature of the ice and how it came to bury the planes.

Another question useful in critical thinking is whether consistent reasoning is being applied.

“observe...we observe things in the present...what we observe...”

Ham drills the necessity of direct observation into our heads, but he accepts speciation among finches, dogs, cats, elephants. Has anyone ever directly observed speciation in birds or mammals? Ham uses a video of the spinning Earth shot from space. He accepts this as evidence of the earth being spherical. But did he observe the Galileo spacecraft shooting this video? He accepts that Charles Darwin kept notes on evolutionary theory that are available for us to review – and misrepresent – today. But did he observe Charles Darwin writing out his thoughts? Ken, were you there?

See if you can spot the word Ham has hijacked here.

“ don't observe that; that's belief...what you believe about the past...we're willing to admit our beliefs about the indoctrinate students to accept evolutionary belief...”

If you come home from a long vacation and find that your refrigerator has failed, you could be said to believe that some of your food has spoiled. But note that your experience with food spoiling when it's not refrigerated properly could be considered a scientific law, that is, observational science, and your inference that the food will have spoiled is historical science at its best. Your inference can rightly be called a belief, but it can also rightly be called knowledge – your knowledge that the earth is spherical is in the same category, being based on experience and inference, and best of all, open to correction when faced with conflicting evidence. This belief is not the same as a belief that leads you to eat the food because you found a note on your front door assuring you that a deranged leprechaun has watched over your refrigerator in your absence. This kind of belief would be more accurately called superstition. It is also not the same as a belief in which you vehemently assert that the food is edible because you've been told that if you don't “confess with your mouth...and believe in your heart” that the food is edible, you will be punished. Eternally. In fire. This is the superstitionists' ultimate hijacking of the word belief, which they use when they really mean to say obedience.

That's 11.7. Thanks for watching.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

God's QC 11.6: Nye - Ham: Projection

Here I continue my thoughts on the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on Feb 4 2014 at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. In this video I'll begin to address some of Ken Ham's comments.

It's interesting to note that in both formal and informal debates on this and related topics, the superstitionists often engage in outrageous projection. They accuse the asuperstitionists of making unsupportable assumptions, being inconsistent, being biased, and employing unethical debating techniques, all the while doing exactly those things themselves. I'm beginning to think that in fact superstitionists – at least the real ones – are not being hypocritical, but instead are exhibiting unavoidable symptoms of extreme cognitive dissonance. Note that I say real superstitionists – Ken Ham and his co-charlatans such as Dembski, Comfort, and Craig don't believe a single word of what they're saying – they use projection as a debating tactic, not to mention a tactic for confusing their audience in order to fleece them.

Let's consider some examples of Ken Ham using this tactic.

“I believe it's all a part of secularists hijacking the word science...not only has the word science been hijacked by secularists...the word evolution has been hijacked using a bait-and-switch...the hijacking of the word science and the hijacking of the word evolution in a bait-and-switch.”

What was this entire event if not a bait-and-switch? The debate topic, posted on the Answers In Genesis website and articulated multiple times by both debaters, was “Is creation a viable model of origins in today's modern, scientific era?” Ken Ham had the floor for a total of one hour and eight minutes. After 25 minutes or so of nonsense, he finally began to discuss his creation “model” by producing a list of six so-called predictions “based on the bible”. He talked about two of the six for a grand total of three minutes. The topic was the bait, and the remaining hour and five minutes of Ham's address was the switch.

As an aside, I actually laughed out loud when he concluded his three-minute mini-speech with this comment: “There's much more that could be said on each of these topics. Obviously you can't do that in a short time like this.”

Returning to the projection tactic, note Ham's emphasis on the hijacking of words, while he has completely hijacked the term historical science. He claims that it simply refers to knowledge about the past, which, although grossly oversimplified, is a sort-of-ok description. But it becomes clear over the course of the debate that he doesn't really mean “knowledge about the past”. What he really means is that he starts with his interpretation of the allegedly historical account of creation in Genesis, fabricates some vague predictions based on his interpretation, and then twists present-day observations to allegedly confirm the predictions. This is not historical science. It is not science.

Ham takes great pains to point out that superstitionists can practice legitimate science. He's right, of course. In fact, Ham himself engaged in excellent science when, based on solid, present-day observations, he predicted that the Creation Museum would be an excellent source of income.

That's 11.6. Thanks for watching.

Friday, February 7, 2014

God's QC 11.5: Nye - Ham: Patriotism

Here I continue my thoughts on the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on Feb 4 2014, at the Creation Museum in Petersburg Kentucky. In this video I'll begin discussing my thoughts on the debate event itself.

Before I start, I will note that due to some of the things I have to say, I expect to lose a few of you as subscribers. To prevent you wasting your time watching the rest of the series, I'll get it over with in this video. I will be sad to see you go, but to tell the truth, 6000 subscribers is too many, as it tends to inflate my ego, and I have trouble getting in and out of my apartment because my head is too big to fit through the front door. Thank you all for being part of the conversation, and I wish you all the best.

I begin this portion of the series, with a criticism for Bill Nye concerning his emphasis on American supremacy, which he mentioned many times during interviews leading up to the debate, and five more times during the debate event.

The issue of superstitious nonsense being forced on society is not about the US; it's not about supremacy. It's about laws that prevent homosexuals who love each other from receiving the same legal recognition as heterosexuals. It's about children being emotionally abused by being taught that they are evil and broken, that they will likely suffer eternal agony. It's about the unfairness of superstitious institutions making vast amounts of money and never having to pay any taxes. It's about taxpayer subsidies to ridiculous projects such as Ken Ham's proposed full-scale model of Noah's ark. It's about women and girls being denied access to abortion, contraception, and vaccinations against cancer-inducing viruses. It's about the AIDS virus spreading because superstitious institutions with power teach people that it's immoral to use condoms. It's about stem-cell research. It's about public policy concerning human-induced climate change. And it's about teaching children to think critically.

It's not about the United States. It's about all of us. We are all in this together, and we will sink or swim together. The human beings in the US are no more valuable, no more deserving to live in the wealthiest nation in the world, than the human beings everywhere else. Nye's attitude is a form of us-and-them-ism, one of the most poisonous attitudes ever known, an attitude perpetuated by the Abrahamic superstitions. It's time we ended us-and-them-ism, no matter what nice-sounding name you want to give to it.

Note that I am not judging Bill Nye, not saying that he is a bad person to be condemned. I offer this as constructive criticism, an invitation to him to re-think his position. Patriotism, at least in the sense that Nye uses it here, is simply racism in different clothing.

That's 11.5. Thanks for watching.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

God's QC 11.4: Nye - Ham: Creation Theory

Here I continue my thoughts on the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on Feb 4, 2014 at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. In this video I'll address the topic of the debate as stated on the Answers In Genesis website: "Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern, scientific era?"

Unfortunately, this question, like the bible, is so open to interpretation as to be meaningless. In order to have any meaningful discussion on the topic, we'll have to rephrase the question: Does Ken Ham's interpretation of the book of Genesis suggest a viable theoretical model for present-day observations that can be applied to either the origin of the cosmos or the origin of life on Earth?

Note that I say for present-day observations. Ken Ham might not like this qualifier, because he wants to say that his ideas are part of a branch of science that can't be tested because they apply only to the past. But a theoretical model that can't, at least in principle, be tested isn't a model at all and therefore isn't science. Ham claims that evolutionary theory can't be tested for the same reasons. But even if that claim were true, many corollaries of evolutionary theory can be tested, and if any of them turned out to be false, evolutionary theory would be called into question--either the unsupportable corollaries must be adequately explained, or the theory must be modified or perhaps even scrapped. Let's consider some of the corollaries of Ham's theoretical model that demand explanation.

Genesis 1:1-3 tells us that the earth and water existed before light. What does light mean here? Presumably, given that Genesis was written by a camel herder, only light that is visible to humans. But there are other wavelengths of light that are not visible to humans, such as infrared and ultraviolet. There are other wavelengths far longer than infrared and far shorter than ultraviolet. We don't call them light, but they're exactly the same thing as visible light. Some common examples are microwaves, radio waves, and x-rays. The formal term for light across the spectrum of wavelengths is electromagnetic radiation. Your body produces ER in vast quantities, because it's warm. So does the bag of chips you just devoured. So does liquid water. This is testable. It has been observed.

An explanation is needed. If "Let there be light" called the electromagnetic force into existence, then how was there liquid water before the magic incantation was uttered? Alternatively, if the electromagnetic force existed before the spell was cast, how is it that this tiny sliver, the human-visible portion of the spectrum was missing?

Ham tells us that there was no death before the Fall, and according to him, a corollary of this claim is that all animals were vegetarians. But when you eat a plant, death occurs. Even if you don't kill the whole plant, you're killing living cells. Now if you dig around on Answers In Genesis here and here, you'll find the claim that plant-cell death isn't really death, because plants aren't really alive, because they don't have the “breath of life” in them. But plants do breathe--they use oxygen to process their food in the same way that animals do. No, they don't have lungs, but neither do insects and most fish. Would Ken Ham claim that fish and insects aren't alive?

If I get a chance, maybe I'll post these questions to the Answers In Genesis website and report back the preposterous answers, if any are forthcoming. That's 11.4. Thanks for watching.

Monday, January 27, 2014

God's QC 11.3: Nye - Ham: Flat Earth, Demons

Here I continue my thoughts on the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on Feb 4, 2014 at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. We're still working our way through Ham's video response to the Bill Nye interview on the BigThink YouTube channel.

I think it's safe to say that Ken Ham considers critical thinking to be important:
"...teach children how to think critically...teach them to think critically...and teach their children how to think critically..." 
Ok children, let's apply some critical thinking to Ham's ideas.
"If evolution were would be so obvious to the kids that it's true. But it's not."
An Answers In Genesis article suggests that Ham accepts as fact that the earth is not flat. But clearly, that fact isn't obvious to kids. If it were, history books wouldn't be full of examples of entire cultures believing that the earth is flat. Another Answers In Genesis article suggests that Ham accepts as fact that many diseases are caused by germs. But clearly, that fact isn't obvious to kids. If it were, history books wouldn't be full of examples of entire cultures believing that disease is a result of supernatural forces. Sadly, truth is often not obvious. If it were, there would be no Christians.
"When it comes to don't dig them up with photographs..."
So where is your photograph of Yahweh creating the universe? Even if you did have it, where is your photograph of Yahweh endorsing what Moses wrote? I ask about endorsement in particular because in Matthew 19:8-9, Jesus himself makes it clear that Moses sometimes wrote things that were not only incorrect, but absolutely contrary to Yahweh's will. How do you know whether the Genesis account is what Yahweh intended?
"Creationists are teaching children that they're special, that they're made in the image of 'God'."
True, but they also teach their children that Yahweh created dirt first, and then made humans out of dirt. I would rather teach children that they are made of the same stuff as stars, that they are deeply connected not only to animals, but to plants, rocks, the earth, the whole universe. Superstitionists teach their children that they're actually offensive to their creator, descended from people so evil that they broke the very order of the cosmos, so evil that their sin retains all of its original toxic potency, thousands of generations later, in the bodies--and particularly the genitals--of the children themselves. And let's not forget the best part of what superstitionists teach their children: if you don't do and/or say and/or believe the right things, you will spend eternity--eternity--experiencing conscious, unimaginable agony.
"I'll tell you what is real abuse, and I'll tell you what is inappropriate for children."
That's 11.3. Thanks for watching.

Friday, January 24, 2014

God's QC 11.2: Nye - Ham: Morality, Miracles

Here I continue my thoughts on the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on Feb 4, 2014 at the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Now that we've discussed Ham's misuse of basic terms, let's consider some of the other points he made in his YouTube response to the BigThink interview with Bill Nye.
"I tell you what is real abuse...what is inappropriate for children: when you teach them...there's no god...who determines right and wrong? You do. Who determines what's good and bad? You do."
I hate to break it to all you superstitionists out there, but even if your demon Yahweh exists, even if its hideous holy writ is true, the answers to these questions remain the same. Look around the world at the more than 30k flavors of superstition you have created and ask yourself: who determines which parts of the bible to interpret literally and which figuratively? Clearly, you do. Who decides which unambiguous directives from Yahweh applied only in ancient times and need not be followed today? You do. Who determines right and wrong? You do. Moral relativism is a given among humans. It always has been, and it has never had anything to do with their beliefs, or lack thereof, in sky fairies.
"Creationists are giving [children] a basis for developing technology: ...we can trust the laws of nature; we can trust the uniformity of nature."
Really? We can trust the laws and uniformity of nature? What laws of nature can we refer to that explain a fully grown man being fashioned from dirt and a fully grown woman from one of his ribs? There are no such laws. But that was during Creation Week, you say? Ok, so during Creation Week, Yahweh suspended the uniformity of nature that we can supposedly trust and instead ran the universe with magic.

How about after Creation Week? What laws of nature can we refer to that explain a talking serpent? Did serpents in those days have vocal cords? Lips? How big were their brains? Big enough to enable the serpents to learn human language? But that was before the Fall, you say? Ok, so before the Fall, Yahweh suspended the uniformity of nature that we can supposedly trust and instead ran the universe with magic.

How about after the Fall? What laws of nature can we refer to that explain how all those animals rendezvoused with Noah at the ark before the Great Flood? Your article on Answers In Genesis answers my question. What does it say? "God brought the animals to Noah by some form of supernatural means". So according to the bible, Yahweh regularly suspends the uniformity of nature that we can supposedly trust and instead runs the universe with magic. Where do the superstitious parents of these unfortunate children get the idea that they can trust the laws and uniformity of nature? Certainly not from Yahweh. That's 11.2. Thanks for watching.

Monday, January 20, 2014

God's QC 11.1: Nye - Ham: Historical And Observational Science

Here I continue my thoughts on the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on Feb 4, 2014 at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky.

As we saw in the previous video, Ham attempts to attribute equal validity to creationism and evolutionary theory by placing both concepts within the realm of historical science, as opposed to observational science. I must apologize if I gave the impression in the previous video that this distinction is not legitimate. It is legitimate, and is pondered deeply by philosophers of science. Fortunately, as I hope I have convinced you over the years, one need not have a deep understanding of the philosophical underpinnings in order to grasp the basics, which I'll discuss here.

To start, let's forget for the moment about the terms observational and historical, which for our purposes have unnecessarily technical meanings. Let's call the two approaches general and specific instead. In the general approach, we use repeatable experiments and testable observations to infer general principles that we call scientific laws. In the specific approach, we use known scientific laws to infer specific details about the world around us. As you can probably see, these two approaches complement each other, each feeding back into the other, building our body of knowledge.

Consider an example of the general approach. Anyone who has cut down a tree may notice that there are concentric, alternating bands of light and dark wood in the interior of the stump; these are known as tree rings. Scientists and non-scientists alike have observed for quite some time in trees of known age that the number of rings in a given tree corresponds to the number of years that tree has been alive. Based on this phenomenon, we infer that trees in general grow in this fashion, and we call the inference a scientific law, or a law of nature, or simply a general principle.

Now consider an example of the specific approach. If I cut down a tree of unknown age, although no one observed it growing, I can use the known principles concerning tree rings to infer the age of this specific tree. This, the concept I have temporarily called the specific approach, is what philosophers of science mean when they say historical science.

And this is where Ham and his fellow superstitionists get it utterly wrong. Much of the support for evolutionary theory comes from the fossil record, which could be considered a historical account of sorts, but that is not what makes it historical science. It is historical science because it is supported by known principles that are derived from testable, repeatable observations. Creationism is not a historical science; it is historical only in the sense that it is based on a historical account. It is science in no sense whatsoever. That's 11.1. Thanks for watching.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

God's QC 11.0: Nye - Ham Debate

In this series I discuss my thoughts on the debate, on Feb 4, 2014, between Bill Nye the Science Guy and Ken Ham, President and CEO of Answers In Genesis and the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. The topic of the debate is stated on the Answers In Genesis website as, "Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?" I've begun the series in advance of the event, in order to discuss some points that were brought up beforehand on the Creation Museum's YouTube channel.

The debate's origins lie in an interview with Bill Nye, published in August 2012 on the YouTube channel BigThink, in which Nye made the following suggestion to superstitious parents:
"If you want to deny evolution and live in your world that's completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that's fine. But don't make your kids do it."
About a week after the BigThink video appeared, the Creation Museum posted two response videos on its YouTube channel, one video featuring Ken Ham and the other featuring two of his staff members, Doctors David Menton and Georgia Purdom. Ham wastes the first sixty seconds of his video grumbling about Bill Nye and his agenda, but he does finally get around to one of his central points, a point that I suspect will come up in the debate:
"You can divide science into historical science—that's talking about the past, or observational science—that's the science that builds our technology."
Ham mentions this three more times in the next three minutes, so it seems that it's an important point for him. Dr Purdom elaborates:
"Bill Nye is confusing observational science with historical science. Observational science is what I call "here-and-now" science. It gives us inventions and technology; we can observe, test, and repeat it. Historical science deals with the past, and both evolution and creation fall into that category. We cannot test, observe, or repeat them."
It's possible that Ham and his pals got these notions about observational and historical science from a 2007 biology textbook called Explore Evolution: The Case For And Against Neo-Darwinism. The book says that in the historical sciences, claims about past events can't be verified. I think this must be where Ken Ham gets the idea, spelled out by Dr Purdom, that creationism and evolutionary theory are on an equal scientific footing. In the next video, I'll show just how far this idea is from the truth. That's 11.0. Thanks for watching.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

God's Quality Control 10.1: Yahweh's Priorities

Here I discuss my thoughts on the Great Disconnect—one might call this one the Ultimate Disconnect—between Yahweh's priorities, as indicated by the Ten Commandments, and what really matters in the world.

The Ten Commandments, Yahweh's first spoken announcement to humanity at large, are to be found in Exodus Chapter 20. What is Yahweh's first public utterance, the most vital tenet of morality that all humans must observe? Don't have any other gods besides Yahweh. Really. That's the big kahuna. But to adequately address Yahweh's emotional insecurity, we need three further commandments: don't make idols, don't misuse its name, and honor Yahweh by following its example of taking a day off once a week.

What really matters in the world? What really matters is suffering; the only useful basis for morality is the well-being of creatures that have the capacity to suffer. Certainly it is not Yahweh's neediness that matters. One might say that the command to take a day off has a nice ring to it, but its purpose is to further stroke Yahweh's ego. Human well-being is not even an afterthought; it's a coincidental side-effect.

Once Yahweh gave us the bedrock of morality, it moved on to the most vital tenet of morality concerning human interpersonal relationships: honor your father and mother. Really. That's the big kahuna. What's next? Don't murder. For Yahweh, your relationship with your parents is more important than not killing people. I have to give Yahweh some credit for having a sense of humor, admitting that one's relationship with one's parents can indeed lead to murderous impulse. Four more prohibitions round out the Ten Commandments, Yahweh's first and most important public service announcement of all time: don't commit adultery, steal, give false testimony against your neighbor, or covet.

Only two of these ten commands are unambiguously useful: don't murder and don't give false testimony. The command to honor one's parents doesn't allow for the all-too-frequent incidence of dishonorable parents. The word adultery emphasizes official marriage, leaving out unofficial but equally valid relationships. Stealing can often be justified, especially in a world where the rich have everything and the poor have nothing. Coveting occurs in one's own mind, and like everything else in one's mind, cannot harm others.

Two reasonable commands, four ridiculous, and four grossly inadequate as a basis for a functional society. Worse than the content is what has been left out. Why no prohibition against torture? Rape? Slavery? Sex with children? Plutocracy? Why no insistence on mercy? Compassion? Empathy? Introspection? "Love your neighbor" does finally show up, but much later. It doesn't make the top ten, or even the top thirty.

The Great Disconnect starts with the Supreme Being itself and its top priorities. Its main concern is to protect its fragile ego, which it demonstrates by introducing itself to humanity with four self-serving commandments. It then demonstrates its concern for—one might even say competence at promoting—human social harmony, by belching out a few ill-considered trifles, omitting myriad other ideas that could have made inconceivable positive differences to human history. That's 10.1. Thanks for watching.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

God's QC 10.0: The Great Disconnect

Outspoken skeptics are often criticized for mocking the beliefs of the religious, belittling that which is held sacred, blaspheming their supernatural being (or beings). What the religious never seem to realize is that their own apologists treat their god (or gods) with far more contempt than any irreligious person ever could. Consider all the religious people who, speaking publicly on behalf of their god, lie, dissemble, ignore the facts, present appallingly faulty and inconsistent reasoning in support of their arguments, and when shown to be incorrect, abandon reason altogether and claim that the irreligious will never understand, because we lack spiritual discernment, or because we have not felt the power of god in our hearts, or the most ridiculous non-argument I've ever heard, because we just want to go on sinning.

In this series, as in all my previous series, I will continue to offer my quality-control services to the superstitionist community, in the hopes that they will one day stop embarrassing themselves and their invisible friends. In this series in particular, I will discuss a phenomenon that I call "The Great Disconnect". There is a strange, enormous gap between what superstitionists claim to believe and how they live their lives. They claim to follow the Supreme Being of the universe, but most of them can't be bothered to read the only book from which they could learn about said being. They claim to know of a moral philosophy, based on their holy book, that is superior to all others, but even those who read the book never stop to think about how utterly immoral much of that philosophy is. Those who revere the man Jesus usually know next to nothing of what the bible actually says about him. And even those who have some knowledge of him--sadly, this includes even asuperstitionists--give him far more credit than he deserves as a reformer, an innovative thinker, and a source of timeless wisdom. These are examples of The Great Disconnect, the theme of this Quality Control series.

I encourage you to think of this series a conversation rather than a monologue. Post comments; tell me your thoughts; especially, challenge me and point out my errors. I care a lot about the truth, and I'm pretty sure I don't know all there is to know. I hope that by having this conversation, we can all get just a little closer to the truth.

Many thanks to all of you who have checked in on me during this and all of my long absences. Sometimes life happens and interferes with that most important of activities, making YouTube videos. Many thanks to the hundreds of you who have posted comments on my other videos, and my apologies for not being able to respond to everyone. With any luck, I'll be able to stay involved in the conversations relating to this series.

As with all my videos, transcripts are available. See the link in the video description. Finally, some people have told me that my episode numbering system is confusing. In order to make it less confusing, I have created a playlist for each series, including this one, and I've included a link in the video description. That's 10.0. Thanks for watching.