Author Archive

Blast from the Past

Posted: March 19, 2011 by skepticalprogrammer in General

Angie and I were looking through some old pictures the other day, and we found this old picture: my old car from almost 10 years ago. The bumper stickers say so much about how my life has changed over the last 10 years.


Rob Bell, Hell, and the Evangelical Uproar

Posted: March 15, 2011 by skepticalprogrammer in Atheism
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Recently a pastor friend of mine shared a link to a critique of Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins. For those who haven’t heard about the controversy, the Evangelical Christian community is in an uproar because in Love Wins Rob suggests that a loving God would not send anyone to “Hell” as hell is traditionally defined. Instead of the traditional eternal torment and torture in a fire with no hope of escape for all eternity, Rob speculates that Hell could be more aptly described as the pain and suffering we put ourselves through when we live apart from the wonder of God’s creation.

The critique above basically sums up Rob’s book as the path to Hell (as traditionally defined, not as Rob defines it), and shows the author’s lack of critical thinking skills by using a number of logical fallacies to demonize Rob’s claims. One fallacy in particular that bothered me can be found in the following passage:

Throughout the book he engages in what can best be described as exegetical gymnastics, particularly in dealing with the Greek word aion, a small word that is crucial to his arguments.

While this word is commonly translated as “eternal” or “everlasting,” Bell argues that it can also mean “age” or “period of time,” or even “intensity of experience.” Using this approach, he briefly argues from the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matt. 25:31-46) that eternal punishment isn’t eternal, but rather an intense period of pruning.

Now here’s the thing: aion and aionos definitely can mean “age” or “period of time,” they also mean “eternal.” The word’s context helps us to determine its meaning. So if we assume that these words primarily mean “age” or “period of time,” what happens when we apply that definition to John 3:16 where aionosis used?

For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son so that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have life for a period of time.

Not as encouraging, is it? While Bell might argue here that “life abundant” might be a better fit (playing on the “intensity of experience” angle and tying it to John 10:10), at the end of the day, we’re left with an approach that gives more credence to living your best life now than it does to worshipping Jesus.

Rob Bell’s argument is not that aion primarily means “age”, or even that it means “age” more often than eternal. Rob’s argument is that in the passages that are often used to describe hell aion can be translated more accurately as “age” or “period of time”. As anyone who has translated text can tell you, context is everything. While translating from English for example, the phrase “Firing up a bowl” would translate very differently depending on whether you were talking about pottery or a party; likewise the Spanish word Mariposa can either reference a butterfly or a homosexual depending on the context.

Why then would someone who is obviously familiar with translating from Greek make such a rookie mistake in logic? I believe the answer is that he is terrified of the implications of Rob’s assertions.

Without Hell, Christianity will die.

As a former Evangelical I can tell you that the thought of those I loved (or even those I didn’t know) ending up in Hell was enough for me to go out of my way to ensure that they never had to endure that torment, and I was from a church which focused on God’s grace rather than hell most of the time. Others such as my wife however, were not so lucky. Growing up in a more conservative background, she heard about the horrors of eternal damnation regularly in sermons, “Judgment Houses”, and everyday conversation. Because of this, she experienced fear and guilt when she began questioning her faith, partially because she had been conditioned to think that not believing would bring her eternal and excruciating pain. When it comes to converting others to Christianity, you would be hard pressed to hear an alter call that does not mention Hell as the alternative to faith in Jesus. Overall, without hell there is very little reason to convert to Christianity, or to avoid deconverting from Christianity.

One has to wonder what psychological phenomenon can cause people to behave in a way that would allow someone to take video of church services and make them fit well with a song by Slayer. Explainable or not it happens.

Draw Muhammed Day

Posted: May 20, 2010 by skepticalprogrammer in General
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Today is “Draw Muhammed Day” for all of us non-muslims and free speech advocates. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the situation, recently radical and “moderate” muslims alike have been threatening or attacking those who would dare draw Muhammed in any way (an act which is considered sinful and offensive to muslims). Rather than stand by and allow a minority to push their arbitrary rules on everyone else, many have decided to stand together and show the muslim community that we will not give up our rights for fear of retaliation.

No one should be forced to follow the rules of a religion to which they don’t prescribe. If Muslims don’t want to draw Muhammed they don’t have to, but they do not have the right to force their rules upon anyone else.

In observance of Draw Muhammed Day I submit:

Can't we all just get along?

Judgement House

Posted: May 12, 2010 by skepticalprogrammer in Atheism

“Judgement House” is a common church event around Halloween here in the southern US, and they take the viewer through a series of disturbing scenes in which people die horribly, and most of them go to hell for their various sins. This video is a clip of what a typical (though somewhat high budget) Judgement House is like.

My question is, how can anyone use such blatant scare tactics with kids and think it’s ok?

Fuck the Motherfucker

Posted: May 2, 2010 by skepticalprogrammer in Atheism, General, Politics
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Catchy title eh? It’s from a video by Tim Minchin:

For those who would like the lyrics:

Fuck the motherfucker
Fuck the motherfucker
Fuck the motherfucker
He’s a fucking motherfucker

Fuck the motherfucker
Fuck the fucking fucker
Fuck the motherfucker
He’s a total fucking fucker

Fuck the motherfucker
Fuck the motherfucker
Fuck the motherfucker
Fucking fuck the motherfucker

Fuck the motherfucker
Fuck the motherfucking Pope

Fuck the motherfucker
And fuck you motherfucker
If you think that motherfucker is sacred

If you cover for another motherfucker who’s a kiddie fucker
Fuck you, you’re no better than the motherfucking rapist

And if you don’t like the swearing that this motherfucker forced from me
And reckon that it shows moral or intellectual paucity
Then fuck you motherfucker, this is language one employs
When one is fucking cross about fuckers fucking boys

I don’t give a fuck if calling the Pope a motherfucker
Means you unthinkingly brand me an unthinking apostate
This has naught to do with other fucking godly motherfuckers
I’m not interested right now in fucking scriptural debate

There are other fucking songs and there are other fucking ways
I’ll be a religious apologist on other fucking days
But the fact remains, if you protect a single kiddie fucker
Then Pope or prince or plumber, you’re a fucking motherfucker

You see I don’t give a fuck what any other motherfucker
Believes about Jesus and his motherfucking mother
And I’ve no problem with the spiritual beliefs of all these fuckers
While those beliefs don’t impact on the happiness of others

But if you build a church on claims of fucking moral authority
And with threats of hell impose it on others in society
Then you, you motherfuckers, could expect some fucking wrath
When it turns out you’ve been fucking us in our motherfucking asses

So fuck the motherfucker
And fuck you, motherfucker if you’re still a motherfucking papist
If he covered for a single motherfucker who’s a kiddie fucker
Fuck the motherfucker, he’s as evil as the rapist

And if you look into your motherfucking heart and tell me true
If this motherfucking stupid fucking song offended you
With its filthy fucking language and it’s fucking disrespect
If it made you feel angry, go ahead and write a letter
But if you find me more offensive than the fucking possibility
That the Pope protected priests when they were getting fucking fiddly
Then listen to me, motherfucker, this here is a fact:
You are just as morally misguided as that motherfucking
Power-hungry, self-aggrandized bigot in the stupid fucking hat

I couldn’t have said it any better myself Tim!

Torture and Racism

Posted: April 5, 2010 by skepticalprogrammer in Politics
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Several months ago Rachel Maddow posted a link to a blog called Detainee 063 on her Twitter. It released the interrogation logs of a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay exactly 7 years (to the minute) after they occurred. After reading through several pages worth of logs, I came to the conclusion that the interrogators were more concerned with getting the detainee to say what they wanted than finding truth. In the portion of the logs I read the type of torture they used was limited to deprivation of basic human needs (sleep, food/water, and bathroom access), but even under this kind of pressure anyone could be convinced to say anything to make it stop. When being interrogated in this way by people who want you to admit to being a member of Al-Qaeda, it is no wonder so many people admit and recant over and over like Mohammed al-Qahtani did.

How did we get to the point that we were so eager for war that we were willing to subject a human to such treatment in exchange for what would most likely be a false confession? Unfortunately, I think that this question can be partially answered by saying that some people have always been there. There is a strange phenomenon in the American (or possibly general Human) psyche in which we are able to dehumanize an entire group of people if we can justify it to ourselves. It was this phenomenon that allowed for nearly 200 years of slavery in the United States which was justified by the church saying that Africans were the direct descendants of Ham and were therefore Canaanites. It was this same phenomenon that allowed nearly 100 years of segregation and rampant lynching in the Southern US by the Klu Klux Klan. It was this phenomenon that led to the murder of millions of Jews during WWII, as well as the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans in American concentration camps during the same time period. This same phenomenon is what has caused many Americans and American Politicians to turn a blind eye while we violate the Geneva convention by torturing people based upon race and religion in Guantanamo Bay.

What can we do to combat this kind of racism in the future? I guess first and foremost we can stop engaging in racism and torture now. Right now the prison at Guantanamo Bay is still open, and we are sending a clear signal to the rest of the world that we are fine with torturing (mostly) innocent people–of the nearly 600 people who have been detained at Guantanamo Bay since the start of the “War on Terror”, only 3 have been convicted of a crime. Next, we have to find common ground on which all sane humans can stand while we begin our march towards a new tomorrow. It will only be by focusing on what we have in common that we will be able to work through our differences. We also need to go out of our way to form relationships with people from different backgrounds. It is hard to dehumanize Arabs or Black People if you have Arab friends and Black friends. Finally, as with most other problems, we need to educate our children. Only when children are taught that people of different races and religions are just as valuable as we are can we move past this horrible behaviour we have shown.