The Antitheist Herald

Christopher HitchensEvery year since his death, I do something to celebrate and commemorate the life of Christopher Hitchens, one of the writers and polemicists who most influenced me in my skeptical inquiry of religion, Christianity and Islam in particular.

On December 15th, 2011 Christopher Hitchens died, and every year since I’ve done something to further one of his causes that I most identify with: To expose and criticize religious attitudes and ideologies that are not conducive to the well-being of humanity as well as the actions perpetrated by the religious adherents and officials under the influence or authority granted them by their religious institutions.

By far, my most outstanding effort in furthering this cause has been my Facebook page, “Antitheist Herald.” Every day this page posts evidence of Christopher Hitchens’ claim that “religion poisons everything.” It’s in his memory that this page was started and it’s my ongoing respect for his work that inspires me to keep the page running. Yesterday, August 8th, 2014, marked the start of the 3rd year that Antitheist Herald has been maintained and I see no evidence of the page slowing down.

As a Christian, I grappled with various problems apologists grappled with for millennia and have invariably come up short on a reasonable, coherent, and satisfying explanation for many of the logical inconsistencies and lapses in reason that seem to be inherent in religious thought; though, the problem that has given me the most grief is theodicy, the problem of evil; a new example of which is highlighted at least once each day on my page.

In one of many of Christopher Hitchens’ assessment of religion he said,

Religion is the outcome of unresolved contradictions in the material world. If you make the assumption that it’s man-made then very few things are mysterious to you: It would be obvious to you why there are so many religions; You will understand why it is that religion has been such a disappointment to our species – that despite innumerable revivals, innumerable attempts again to preach the truth, innumerable attempts to convert the heathen, innumerable attempts to send missionaries all around the world – that the same problems remain with us. That nothing is resolved by this. If all religions died out, or were admitted to be false, all of our problems would be exactly what they are now: How do we live with one another? Where, indeed, do morals and ethics come from? What are our duties to one another? How shall we build the just city? How shall we practice love? All these questions would remain exactly the same. Emancipate yourself from the idea of a celestial dictatorship and you’ve taken the first step to becoming free.

This is a point easily grasped by materialists, atheists, and skeptics alike — but one that is lost on many of our believing friends. One of my other intellectual heroes, Richard Dawkins described the materialistic world thus,

In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.

I believe Karl Marx was correct in writing that, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” We use religion as a drug to cope with our existential angst, but this opiate addiction is a serious problem and the side effects are grisly. Yes, an opiate has its uses, but only insofar as it aids recovery — I do not believe the analogy fails here.

God With Us

“The Creation of Adam” by Michelangelo (left), the motto Gott mit uns, or “God with us” on a Nazi uniform Koppelschlösser.

Religious beliefs have inspired some of the greatest works of philanthropy and art and has alleviated the mental anguish of many of its adherents, but it has also been the cause and justification of many, if not most, of mankind’s evils towards his brothers and sisters; it vindicates the bloodthirsty, validates the bigoted, offers sanction and sanctuary to zealotry, enforces compulsory doctrine of the irrational, opposes intellectual honesty and humility, proliferates unfalsifiable, pseudo- and un-scientific claims, ideologies, and explanations, promotes unrealistic and unhealthy expectations of people, grants confirmation for believing the preposterous, and through all of this it manages to pervade every aspect of the human condition; from our diet and dress to how we raise our children and care for our partners to how we tend to our planet and understand our place on it — nothing remains untouched, I am tempted to say “uncorrupted,” by the influence of religion.

“Antitheism” is the active opposition to theism. This position goes beyond the understanding that theism is false to saying that it is also harmful — which is what my page attempts to demonstrate.

The Antitheist Herald is not a hate group and I make no financial profit from running it. It is a network of individuals who feel a moral obligation to share the everyday evidence of the dangers posed by religion and its negative effects on humanity and its institutions. I invite you to like it, contribute to it, and share it.

The Measure of All Things

I begin by drawing a line with a ruler;
An outline of a timeline of a line of rulers;
Rulers that one of wisdom would never cross
(especially not those rulers under the cross).
I seek to serve man, but those rulers seek to serve man to other men.
I can’t tell you what that means because I don’t know what it means.
The one thing I know is that I know no thing,
but I believe that man should be more than a means.
Man should be an end in and of himself
but man is going to be the end of himself
if he doesn’t change himself —
This seems to be an ending in itself.

I began by drawing a line with a ruler
but I am not even the ruler of my own beginning.
In the beginning was a word: I
But before “I” was a beginning.
By some unwritten rule, all rulers were ruled by the rulers before them.
I don’t know if there was ever a first ruler
from which all rulers were measured;
But if man is the measure, the measured, and the measurer
then why believe in a first ruler aside from I?
I began by drawing a line with a ruler
and when I stop drawing, the line ends.

(Published in Naugatuck Valley Community College’s literary magazine “Fresh Ink 2014″)

The Lord Thy God I: Jealous and Proud of It

"God Judging Adam" by William Blake

“God being a dick” by William Blake

As previously mentioned in my response to J. Lee Grady’s “7 Things That Prove God Is Real,” if we were to refer only to the Old Testament and not the New, I don’t think many people would think God was very good even if he did exist. The way I see it: The Bible is not very good proof of any god’s existence, much less a very good god. Just read the Old Testament, flip around a bit, and feel free to tell me what you think.

I say that as if reading the Bible isn’t incredibly cumbersome — really, unless you were raised on it or you have a shitty new translation, you’re probably not going to dig it, so, in this series I am going to attempt to highlight at least some of the passages that left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. (Full disclosure, I was raised listening to and reading the Bible throughout most of my formative years, so I’m going to jump around a bit rather than going from start to finish so we can keep to a central theme.)

Recently, I was reading the book of Amos and I began to draw parallels between the characteristics of his god and those of an obsessive, possessive, jealous, and, overall, abusive spouse. In the particular passage I was reading, the Lord is reprimanding the Israelites for the callous and uncharitable way they treat the poor, for their idleness, and for their arrogance — for such unseemly actions by the chosen people I could agree that they were in need of a stern talking to.

But this stern talking to revealed a few actions that the Lord was guilty of Himself — though I’m sure He wouldn’t see it as guilt on His part. But I’ll let Him speak for Himself:

I gave you empty stomachs in every city and lack of bread in every town, yet you have not returned to me. I also withheld rain from you when the harvest was still three months away. I sent rain on one town, but withheld it from another. One field had rain another had none and dried up. People staggered from town to town for water but did not get enough to drink, yet you have not returned to me. Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards, destroying them with blight and mildew. Locusts devoured your fig and olive trees, yet you have not returned to me. I sent plagues among you as I did to Egypt. I killed your young men with the sword, along with your captured horses. I filled your nostrils with the stench of your camps, yet you have not returned to me. I overthrew some of you as I overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire yet you have not returned to me. Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel, and because I will do this to you, Israel prepare to meet your God. (Amos 4:6-12, NIVThe New International Version, or NIV, is one of the shitty new translations I was talking about earlier, but for our purposes, it’s good enough)

tl;dr? This can be summed up by saying, “I have hurt you in the past when you didn’t return to me and if you continue to turn from me, I’ll hurt you again.”

Remember this is God speaking; the same God whose mercy endures forever. In case you’re confused, I should point out that this isn’t merely the god of the Jews, this is the god of the Christians (of all flavors; Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, Orthodox, etc.) and the Muslims (though they’re working from different source material that I would argue isn’t much better).

Imagine for a moment the contemptible position taken up by apologists who argue that man’s free will comes into play here. They might argue that it was the Israelites’ choice and they were being punished for this choice. Any debate on free will aside, this seems to be the same logic held by that of a foreman towards his slave on a plantation in the old south of the United States; “Sure, you’re free to run, but when I catch you I’m going to break your legs if I don’t kill you first.” You’re free to do as you wish, as long as it’s what the Lord wishes, because if it’s not then you’d better “prepare to meet your God.” Is the will free when being prompted by the threat of a lash, wrath, or hellfire?

The evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, commented in his book, “The God Delusion,” that,

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

This shotgun blast of criticism requires some unpacking. Many people I know simply do not understand how accurate this description is. It’s not merely a criticism, it’s a description that only someone incredibly ignorant of the scripture (or very foolish) would deny. In this series, The Lord Thy God, I will attempt to back up similar criticisms and descriptions of the god of the Bible and in this article I’ll be focusing on how God is jealous and proud of it.

Provided below are examples that I feel fit the description by professor Dawkins on the matter — I’ve provided the citation of the passages so you can read them in context. If you reach the conclusion that the Lord was justified in these actions I suggest you check out this website.

The Ten Commandments

Do you know the ten commandments? Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal… those seem to be the important ones, but do you remember the rest? How about the first few? (Spoiler: Those aforementioned are not the first few)

I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
(Exodus 20: 2-7, KJV)

That’s 3 out of 10 commandments that regular jack-offs site as being the foundation of morality and law and they have nothing to do with morality. They’re entirely all about God flexing His muscles and reminding us that He’s the boss. (At least he gives us a day-off on the weekends as his 4th commandment – even if it’s primarily, again, a bit theocentric.)

Because having a set of mostly arbitrary rules in front of a courthouse is totally constitutional.

Because having a set of arbitrary religious injunctions in front of a secular courthouse is totally constitutional.

The rest of the commandments aren’t so bad, honoring mommy and daddy, not envying your neighbor’s ass (or his wife’s ass); but what about the kids? There’s no commandment not to rape, molest, or abuse children, no commandment to help the sick, poor, or hungry, nothing telling us not to enslave others, etc.

Anton LeVay, founder of the Church of Satan, saw a problem with the 10 Commandments and issued the 11 Satanic Rules of the Earth and included, “9. Do not harm little children.” Sure, the book was written in the 1960’s and it had the original 10 to respond to, but these give us a bit more to work off of than YHWH’s did (who is supposedly all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good, etc.).

I’m convinced that God is less concerned with the well-being of his people and more concerned with his reputation — even when he’s giving his followers a code to live by.

Serious Jealousy Issues

I’m not just inserting my, or Dawkins’ view, into the text here. The Bible says ad nauseam how jealous God is. Read it for yourself!

For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. (Deuteronomy 4:24, NIV)

In Deuteronomy it’s repeated again and again (e.g. 5:9, 6:15, 32:16, 32:21). And in the book of Joshua, the main protagonist goes so far as to say “You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins.”  (Joshua 24:19, NIV)

At one point in Exodus the writer even says:

Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. (Exodus 34:14, NIV)

Granted, the first 5 books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) were supposedly written by Moses and Joshua (whose book follows the first 5) was Moses’ successor, perhaps their view of God was slightly skewed.

Or maybe not. We see Judah stir up God’s jealousy in 1 Kings 14:22 and in Chapter 8 of Ezekiel the prophet attempts to give a justification for the wrath that God has allowed to fall upon the Jews. What was it that moved God to his actions? Guess. God’s jealousy is mentioned again and again throughout Ezekiel.

In the book of Psalms, the psalmist speaks about how there were those who had “angered him with their high places” and “aroused his jealousy with their idols” (Psalm 78:58, NIV). The psalmist is moved in his next psalm to ask, “How long, Lord? Will you be angry forever? How long will your jealousy burn like fire?”

Perhaps in answer to that question the minor prophets remind us,

The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The Lord takes vengeance on his foes and vents his wrath against his enemies… Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him. (Nahum 1:2, 6, NIV)

Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the Lord’s wrath. In the fire of his jealousy the whole earth will be consumed, for he will make a sudden end of all who live on the earth. (Zephaniah 1:18, NIV)

OC because I'm awesome and proud of it.

(Exodus 34:14)

God is supposedly omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, and all sorts of other long o-words — but jealous? That’s not an o-word and it’s an incredibly petty emotion; it’s so human. Maybe, just maybe, we make gods in our image and not the other way around.

If God is so great, I am left wondering: y so jelly tho?

A Response to J. Lee Grady’s “7 Things That Prove God Is Real”

I am a skeptic about many things, especially my own beliefs and understandings. My friends tend to get a little annoyed with my seemingly-contrarian or argumentative demeanor, but I don’t argue just to argue (okay, that might not be true). Perhaps I’m merely misguided, but I generally want to believe as few falsities and as little bullshit as possible—and, being the caring person I am, I seek to dispel illusions, undo delusions, criticize unjustified beliefs, and reveal as many falsities as I can (as I hear that consuming bullshit is just as bad for one’s physical health as it is for one’s intellectual growth).

As a general rule, I try to entertain the ideas and opinions expressed by people who assert things I don’t necessarily hold as a way of challenging my own beliefs, disbeliefs, or lack-thereofs — and that’s how I stepped into this steamy pile of 7 Things That Prove God Is Real.

I was genuinely excited when I saw the title because I simply love to hear new arguments for theism; maybe they’ll stump me, or even better, convince me! The first few paragraphs were a litany of ad hominem attacks on some atheist woman who heads an atheist organization followed by a plug for a new movie and, frankly, I was disappointed—but then I got to the meat.. the baby meat:

First Proof that God is Real: Babies

The first proof author J. Lee Grady gives his reader is babies. He asks the zinger question, “How can anyone deny the reality of God when they see a baby?”

Here’s a picture my friend sent me of a baby puking in a woman’s mouth. Clearly engineered by a god. Loki?

A baby is a wonderful little creature (when it isn’t pooping, crying, drooling, vomiting, costing you tons of money, and diminishing your overall happiness) and I can definitely see how one might be in awe of how this tiny, little person just exists and looks so much like his or her parents (even Violent Jay doesn’t get it). Of course, we know the reason for this resemblance. The well-understood mechanisms of heredity are astounding, it’s what lies at the heart of any accurate understanding of biology.

But biology isn’t quite the same as theology, is it? The whole project of science presupposes a naturalistic understanding of the world rather than a whimsical, theistic one. Grady remarks on the amazing fact of how, “The amount of information encrypted in one cell in the human body is equal to that of 1,000 books” and “The total amount of information stored in your DNA is 40 times more than that of the largest set of encyclopedias in the world” (we’ll assume he’s not talking about Wikipedia) but we can understand this in purely naturalistic terms. The author tells us a couple trivial (albeit cool) facts about cells, but they are facts that are well explained by a science devoid of any intelligent designer and understood by anyone who paid attention in their high school biology class.

Second Proof that God is Real: Thunderstorms

Still probably the best city-building game.

Still probably the best city-building game.

“I love to sit on my back porch in Florida and listen to the rumbling of thunder. It reminds me of God’s majesty and power.” You might feel like you’ve caught on here; he must talking about Zeus! Don’t get your hopes up – Grady immediately follows it up with a quote from the Bible that he feels offers the “best evidence of God’s existence” from the delightful book of Romans by the apostle Paul.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen. (Romans 1:20)

If you’re anything like me, you might immediately be perplexed and annoyed by “invisible attributes” being “clearly seen” as some form of evidence, but this is coming from the same guy who says that we need faith to understand the world, faith being defined as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 KJV). I suppose if Paul can believe something merely by hoping it’s true there’s just no reasoning with him, but we’re talking about thunderstorms that, strangely enough, can be seen — sort of. Thunder is the sound lightning makes — so you see the lightning and not the thunder, but you definitely hear the thunder and you can clearly see where it’s coming from. I don’t think we need to take this one on faith.

Badass.

That aside, we TOTALLY understand how they work. There’s no Zeus hurling bolts of lightning or Animikii flapping their mighty wings, thunder has a profoundly simple, very cool, and totally naturalistic explanation:


But wait, suddenly Grady goes off on a complete tangent, “Nature is actually full of quantifiable miracles. Just consider the fact that the earth is the perfect distance from the sun to support life. If we were any farther away from the sun, we would freeze; if we were even slightly closer to it, we would burn up. It’s obvious God created this home for us!” Perhaps I set the bar too high for miracles, but I get the feeling he sets them waaay too low. For Grady, it would seem that “miracles” are simply “improbabilities”—but improbability alone is hardly an indicator of intelligent guidance. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll be struck down by a meteorite or bolt of lightning on your way to work tomorrow; if it did happen it’d hardly be a miracle—that’s the sort of superstitious line of reasoning that leads to all sorts of problems. I won’t get into the science of the Goldilocks zone (the area around a star that is capable of supporting life) and why it’s a really poor reason to believe in any supernatural feat, but if you want a good break down just check out NASA’s simple explanation. On this I will just say that the Goldilocks zone is much bigger than creationists like Grady would have you believe.

Third Proof that God is Real: Flowers

“Their job is to simply make the world beautiful.” I almost wanted to give up ripping this article apart when I read that line, but, no, we must press on! So, to clear up this misunderstanding, describing the flower’s job as “to simply make the world beautiful” is sort of like saying “Dicks exist to make the world beautiful.” SPOILER ALERT: They don’t.

Flower penises. (NSFW)

Flowers are the naughty bits of plants and their whole function revolves around reproduction. Whether it’s by attracting insects or other pollen transporting agents to get their inter-special freak on or to launch their pollen (i.e. plant jizz) into the air to hopefully land on another flower, flowers are all about reproduction, not to look pretty for humans.

Suddenly, this picture of a girl blowing a dandelion just got way dirty.

“Did they just haphazardly evolve over time, or did a loving God create each individual shape and color scheme for our enjoyment?”

They did evolve and there’s nothing haphazard about it. It’s 2014, if you don’t understand evolution yet you’re missing out on the most interesting and necessary facts regarding biology that’s ever been discovered. If you don’t know where to begin, I suggest starting here:


Just remember, that when J. Lee Grady tells us, “This is why it’s really important to stop and smell the roses!” he’s telling you to go sniff plant dicks.

Fourth Proof that God is Real: The Bible

There’s something problematic that Grady doesn’t seem to grasp when he says, “Paul wrote that ‘all Scripture is inspired by God’ (2 Tim. 3:16).” The “Scripture” being referred to in Paul’s letter to Timothy isn’t the The Holy Bible, it’s the Old Testament — the latter 27 books and letters comprising the New Testament (which contains the foundation of Christianity) would have been mostly in the works (considering that this letter to Timothy itself would not have been considered “Scripture” at the time of its own writing). If we were to refer only to the Old Testament and not the New, frankly, I don’t think many people would think this God guy was very good even if he did exist. Seriously, just read the Old Testament, flip around a bit, and tell me what you think of God (or just wait for my upcoming series: The Lord Thy God).

“There is nothing like the Bible because it carries the same consistent message throughout all of its 66 different books.”

Consistent messages such as the penalty for adultery? Leviticus 20:10 tells us to stone both of the adulterers, but in John 8:7 Jesus says not to. How about God’s personality? Compare Jeremiah 13:14 to 1 Chronicles 16:34 and let me know if you’re getting mixed messages. Hell, all the verses from Matthew 5:21-42 are Jesus telling us that Moses said one thing but that we should do another — even Jesus doesn’t do what Moses told us to do. I find it very difficult to find a consistent message running throughout the whole of the Bible except for on one topic: Slavery.

When Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America, in his speech on the subject of slavery in the territories said, “It is enough for me elsewhere to know, that [slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God, that it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelations” he knew what he was talking about. Whether we refer to the Old Testament (Exodus 21:7-11, Exodus 21:20-21, Leviticus 25:44-46) or the New Testament (Luke 12:47-48, Ephesians 6:5, 1 Timothy 6:1-2), slavery is condoned or treated as something entirely normal throughout– never once condemned.

Don’t get me wrong, the Holy Bible is an excellent collection of books (my favorites are Ecclesiastes and Job). Many of the books contain very compelling stories, fantastic moral messages, and beautiful poetry – but the idea of taking it wholly, literally, or seriously is kind of a problem if you have a modicum of sense. Grady grants us permission to “laugh at this idea.”

Fifth Proof that God is Real: The Global Spread of Christianity

Grady is quick to point out that, “Over the centuries, the gospel message has been vilified and ridiculed” but what he fails to mention is that it was also institutionalized in many of the areas where Christianity was the predominate belief. In Christian Rome under the rule of Constantine I (reigned 306–337 CE), the emperor first prohibited the construction of new temples and later went on to order the pillaging and tearing down of Roman temples — his persecution of non-Christian mores was so severe he even killed his own wife and son for their violation of them. Christian persecution of pagans in the Roman empire lasted until its fall in 476 CE. The Crusades launched by Pope Urban I in 1095 CE to secure Christianity and influence in the Holy Land started a succession of wars that wouldn’t end until 1291 ensuring that Christianity wouldn’t be wiped from anyone’s memory anytime soon after. The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition (aka Spanish Inquisition) was established in 1478 and wasn’t disbanded until 1834—during which time Muslims and Jews were given the option to convert to Christianity or leave.

With the way he's being stretched, you'd think paganism would have spread further.

With the way he’s being stretched, you’d think paganism would have spread further. (Okay, that was bad.)

The Portuguese Inquisition established in 1536 CE wasn’t even formally disbanded until 1821 and the Roman Inquisition lasted from 1588 to 1858. Today, children are often brought up in religious vacuums where the only source of spirituality they are exposed to is Christianity and anything else is literally demonized. With trends like this, it’s no wonder Christianity is still around.

“Our faith is spreading because it is the truth—and history shows that when this truth is mocked and scorned, it actually spreads faster!”

You know what also spreads faster the more people interact with it? Herpes. The spread of an idea, just like a virus, has nothing whatsoever to do with its truth or goodness.

Sixth Proof that God is Real: Jesus

I want to say that I expected better, but that would be lying and apparently hoping for better didn’t make it so. When Grady brings up Jesus as his sixth proof that God is real we’re supposed to take this on faith; presumably, faith in the Biblical account of Jesus Christ—as other accounts of his allegedly remarkable existence are surprising rare or devoid of any mention of his divinity. But this is easily circular:

1. I believe the Bible because it contains the truth of Jesus Christ.
2. I believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ because it says so in the Bible.

I don’t believe Jesus didn’t exist, I found Bart Ehrman’s book Did Jesus Exist? a very compelling and convincing refutation of the mythicists, but saying anything to the effect of, “He was real, ergo God is real” seems like a long shot for me. Many have claimed to be gods and the sons of gods throughout history and in many of these instances, the primary reason their cults didn’t persist was because another took its place—but if the existence of Jesus proves the existence of YHWH, the existence of any historically present figure who made claims just outlandish as those in the Bible seems to be equally permissible proof for any other god. In Christianity alone we’ve seen divergent sects making different claims about Jesus’ divinity, message, and overall nature and, if we refer back to my discussion of reason five, we can see why many of them disappeared within Christianity. Even the allegedly returned-Christ José Luis de Jesús (who died only at the end of last year) has followers who would no doubt attest to claims similar to those made by Grady in his bit on Jesus Christ. Imagine one of José’s disciples saying this

6. José. The most amazing thing about God is not that He exists, but that He loved us so much He was willing to send His Son to earth twice to save us from ourselves. Jesus/José was with the Father from the time of creation, His arrival was predicted numerous times in Old Testament prophecy, and he spoke of his return in the New Testament. He interrupted history and came to live among us, not once, but twice! His crucifixion is historical fact, His resurrection was verified by hundreds of witnesses, and his return to earth once again can be seen by traveling to his church in Miami, Florida. José was not an illusive fairy tale. He was the living, breathing, touchable Son of God.

If what Grady has said is supposed to be proof for God’s existence, I’m just not seeing it. “Jesus is not an illusive fairy tale. He is the living, breathing, touchable Son of God.” Touchable he says? Show him to me and let me stick my fingers in his holes (no homo). Why believe in Jesus and not José? Why not David Koresh, Alan John Miller, or David Icke? Why not Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, or Kanishka? I’ll tell you why—it’s because extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. What Grady has given us is no evidence whatsoever.

Seventh Proof that God is Real: My personal friendship with God

“Atheists may not be convinced that God exists after listening to a storm, smelling a hibiscus or reading the Bible. When I am asked to defend my faith, I don’t start an intellectual argument.”

Clearly.

The Elf on the Shelf is Watching You

The Elf on the Shelf is Watching You 1

In Alpine regions, Santa Claus has more than happy little elves to assist him on the holidays, he is accompanied by a demonic and frightening figure. While good Saint Nicholas is rewarding the well-behaved children with gifts, Krampus is tormenting the misbehaved with a good caning.

It seems that in recent years a similar distortion of the holiday spirit (it’s about being good for goodness sake, right?) has taken hold of Christmas in the United Statesthough, it is a terror of a different nature: the Elf on the Shelf.

The Elf on the Shelf is a doll that is described to children as being an agent of Santa, reporting back to the jolly fat-man who’s been naughty or nice (presumably to decide whether you get an iPod, some coal, or a visit from Krampus if you’re an unlucky Austrian child). Notions of Big Brother immediately came to mindand the doll’s song doesn’t quite alleviate such thoughts.

The elf on the shelf is watching you —
what you say and what you do.
The elf on the shelf is watching you —
each and every Christmas!

It seems to me, first and foremost, that we are introducing a superstition to our children that we know isn’t truevaluing truth, I find it slightly offensive. But more worryingly, we’re teaching our children, under threat, to do the right thing.

A dilemma I’ve found myself pondering lately is: If the consequences are the same, is it better that a child does the right thing because they wanted to do the right thing (Goodness for Goodness sake) or is it somehow cheapened if someone does the right thing through coercion (coal, a beating, a bad report to Santa, etc.)?

In other words: Does character matter?

If it does, then what are we doing by introducing a new “Christmas tradition” that celebrates this sort of morality-at-gunpoint?

Adrian Hawkes, of Phoenix Academy is not alone in saying:

If there is no God, there is no Lawgiver, why does it matter what I do? Why is rape wrong? Why is pedophilia wrong? Why are any of these things wrong?…I think that all people, if they think they can get away with something and, it is, there is no consequenceswe actually tend to do that. I think that is the reality…

Many sophisticated and unsophisticated theologians seem to agree with this principal on this principleRavi Zacharias and Ray Comfort come to mind.

But, really? Without the threat of hellfire or bribery of eternal bliss would we really become immoral rapists and pedophiles? Without the Elf on the Shelf do children become immoral troublemakers?

I sometimes worry what a child will do when they find out Santa doesn’t exist primarily due to the feeling of betrayal that comes from being lied to, not because they’ll become evil, little heathensbut what happens if men like these, who base their morality on a threat or commandment, find out God doesn’t exist?

The Elf on the Shelf is Watching You 2

Merry Christmasor else!