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.

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.