Sketches on Atheism

Paranoia, meet theism. Theism, this is paranoia… your biological father.

hancock-joseph-man-with-umbrella-under-a-regional-rainJust so there’s no doubt: Anthropomorphic theism is about as natural as tennis rackets, ice cream cones and bikinis. It is neither automatic nor inevitable. No religion has emerged twice anywhere on the planet, no single deity has been envisaged by two populations separated by time and geography, and not a solitary person in history has arrived independently at Mithraism, Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Scientology or Judaism without it first being taught to them. That is an inalienable, unarguable truth. Theism (the progeny of far older generations of pantheism, Totemism, paganism, animism and the oldest of them all, ancestor cults) is nothing but the latest imaginative appendage to have grown out from (culturally-centric) superstition; itself nothing but the elaborately dressed-up residue cast off from blunders in causation and correlation. That’s all superstition is; irrational mistakes in cognition where we observe one event (B) happening after another event (A) and assume A is responsible for B. Upon sensing a storm approaching my wife’s deeply superstitious great grandmother would, I’m told, crawl beneath the kitchen sink and furiously beat pots and pans together until the lightning and thunder had passed. Not so surprisingly this method of chasing storm demons away worked every time. The storm would pass. The reasons why, of course, differed according to whom you asked.

“The General root of superstition is that men observe when things hit, and not when they miss, and commit to memory the one, and pass over the other.” (Francis Bacon)

Like theism, superstition is however also not natural. It will not rise instinctively like hunger, and no two populations will arrive at the same irrational fears. A monstrous, head-exploding, palm tree bending sneeze on the Banks Islands of Polynesia is cause for serious concern as someone is certainly talking badly of you, but for the Maoris in nearby New Zealand the same roof-lifting nose orgasm is reason to celebrate because someone fun is surely about to visit. PF-paranoiaThe tripwire for superstition is cultural, it’s anthropological, but this is not however to say there isn’t a physiological trigger buried deep inside the genome that kicks the door open to culturally-centric superstition and through that paves the way for its uglier but more organised cousin, religion. There is, and it’s spelt  P  A  R  A  N  O  I  A.

Granted, on first inspection most will say paranoia, like superstition, is simply an unwelcomed cognitive clusterfuck, the information processing equivalent of a shipwreck, and in many ways it is just that. It is however an unavoidable, preordained shipwreck hardwired into each and every one of us… and for very good reason: the madness served us extremely well at a time not that very long ago when even the strongest of us were counted as snack items. A breeze bending blades of grass could easily be attributed (albeit in this instance incorrectly) to a stalking lioness and all the dangers that it implied. Danger is bad, and to get ahead of it we, as a species, played it safe and erred on the side of caution. We learnt to jump before (possible) peril arrived. The causal associations made between the unpredictable movement of grasses and the presence of danger (to use this example) was a good thing, a promotable skill, a biologically useful adaption that was slowly but surely etched into our genome. To put it simply, our evolutionary path rewarded the lesser of two evils whereby the cost of paranoia was deemed lower than the cost of scepticism which, if wrong, extracts a painfully high price: namely death. The sceptical hominid might see the bending grass but take a moment to then survey surrounding trees and see if they too were bending. If they were then the probability of wind causing the movement of the grass increased but did not necessarily rule out the presence of a hungry lioness. Wrongly attributing the bending grass to an approaching lioness ninety-nine times out of a hundred was, it appears, far less costly than being wrong once. The paranoid lived on to practice (or fend off) increasingly bad pick-up lines whereas the brazen sceptic tired of jumping at the slightest rustle met a less than pleasant demise.

In a sentence, nature beatified the neurotic.

A tendency to make quick albeit mostly false associations was deemed more evolutionarily beneficial than more reliable but equally more time-consuming rational scepticism. There was a price to pay for this inbuilt paranoia, anxiety and suspicion, but the price was evidently considered tolerable in the face of the more costly alternatives. We are, as such, biologically predisposed to this neurosis. Paranoia is, at a genetic level, our default setting: the natural state of a human being at rest. Bending blades of grass are observed, synaptic nerve endings fire and the observation is linked to past events where the pattern of bending grass is followed by a blinding flash of sandy blonde fur and hazardously huge feline paws. What happens next is entirely involuntary. Up top there is a not-so mild biochemical explosion and norepinephrine floods the brain; the neurological equivalent of someone yelling “FIRE!” in a crowded theatre. Adrenal glands go off like solid rocket fuel motors and adrenalin saturates the sympathetic nervous system. Neurons in the visual cortex spark off at triple normal speed and time appears to slow. Faster than thought the liver dumps its store of glucose into the blood. The heart and lungs snap into overdrive flooding muscles with oxygen, and with that the body is near-instantly prepared for Flight or Fight: a survival mechanism that has changed little, if at all, through the last 830,000 generations.

That’s just the way it is and I can no sooner change that than I can change my eye colour. Today as I walk my dogs an abrupt rustle in the tall grass will make me jump. The likelihood of a lioness leaping out might be remote, a mouse is more probable, but my natural, pre-programmed bias to making the quicker and cheaper false association is there, ingrained. My speedy (life-preserving) reaction, which I’m not shy to admit might include yelping like a little girl, I can thank some deep time relative – perhaps Australopithecus afarensis – for. However, simply because some 830,000 generations ago this neurosis was deemed less expensive than careful scepticism does not mean there hasn’t been a hidden cost slowly accruing in the background; an expense steadily but surely building up like silt behind a once useful dam wall. The truth is there has been, and that cumulative cost is our stubborn attachment to superstition: the nucleus of theism and all its unnatural nonsense.

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315 thoughts on “Paranoia, meet theism. Theism, this is paranoia… your biological father.

    • Isn’t it amazing? You must admit it’s always interesting and entertaining. What would we have to make fun of if they didn’t exist? lol.

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  1. “Anthropomorphic theism is about as natural as tennis rackets” Haha, now that you’ve narrowed down your theism it does all make perfect sense. 🙂
    Love the post. It’s hilarious and brilliantly written!

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    • Thanks! Ok, i did define it a little better, but i’d still say theism simply means a deity-based belief system with attached stories, including a creation myth. The gods we have today are very young in the larger scheme of things.

      Now, you still have to tell me why these gods you seem so determined to let live are mysterious rather than informative…. 😉

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      • I thought I explained it quite well! Their creation, their rules. It’s the standard get-out clause. They’re under no obligation to behave to my logical standards.

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      • I think that any deity (mischievious, well-meaning or otherwise) that wants to be ‘worshipped’ should be urged to carefully reassess its priorities. It’s a clear self-esteem issue.

        Or maybe they collect souls and they have to reach a certain number to move up to the next plane of existence … I think it would make a great animated film. I may approach Pixar.

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  2. ‘Anthropomorphic theism is about as natural as tennis rackets, ice cream cones and bikinis.”

    Another classic Zane line to rank alongside that one you wrote about haircuts and cancer.

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  3. Well said and quite poetic. I would add that a survey of 3-year olds in Chicago, IL (if memory serves me) indicate that the greatest fear of these rug rats was “being eaten by wild animals.” Here in Chicago we shoot 3-year olds we don’t let wild animals eat them so there is some sort of genetic memory of that paranoid state fueling their belief.

    And I must add that being paranoid does not mean that they aren’t out to get you. Watch your back, John!

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  4. Thank you for this one! It helps me process a bit more what I was trying to explain in which I had observed in my own life. (the magical thinking and dangers when left unfettered)

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  5. Pingback: Oh For God’s Sake! In the beginning… | A Tale Untold

  6. A wonderful depiction of the Bayesian qualities of the organic brain and how Evolution has shaped behaviour over time. A pleasant way to start a Sunday morning.

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      • I would avoid them if i could. We have a church standing between us and our local shops which sort of guarantees contact, particularly on a Sunday… and just yesterday a bus-load of evangelicals (yes, a whole bus full of them) tried to save our neighbourhood. They trolled our street in groups of four for hours. They have no idea how lucky they are my Portuguese is atrocious 😉

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      • Precisely. Could never be measured. Yet … What are the chances that my friend would call right when I was about them??? Pretty good actually.

        People don’t know how likely 100,000 to 1 can be. I think playing a lot of cards has helped me grasp it. Most people do not get to experience millions of hands of anything.

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    • Before my deconversion, I was asked my main reasons for being a believer. It caused me to search my own understanding at the time. What I came up with then, was the fulfilled prophecies, (prophecy fulfillment of course deserves it’s own post)
      changed lives, (fruit of the spirit evidenced in lives of the believers) , and …God’s interaction in my life. the little things…things i called “winks of god”. Things I was taught to attribute to a god, whilst all the bad things…were of course attributed to trials and tribulations, and the testing of my faith. 😉 It is easy to see the winks if one is looking for them…those patterns…we so long to attribute. It was a rude awakening to realize how very self centered this idea i had of a personal god looking out for me…in such a personal way was…

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  7. Extremely well said John and as pragmatic as ever.

    I think you might be able to make something equally interesting out of the transition from rational skepticism to abject denial.

    Do you suppose the one might be at the root of the other as paranoia is at perfectly justifiable fear?

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    • Thanks, Richard! It’s called Suspension of Reality today; a cognitive trick used by audiences when imagining a story in the process of being told or remembered. Quite literally, to buy into a fictional story an individual has to suspend their rational idea of the world around, and the more fanciful the tale the deeper the suspension of reality needs to be. What’s interesting is that this deliberate denial comes more easily to us than labouring through rational scepticism. We’re more prone to accept a false casual association with perceived long-term benefits than wrestle with more costly scepticism. In a word, denying reality is cheaper.

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  8. Really good and entertaining too. You just explained a lot of things which many/me of us had never really given much thought too.
    Our stubborn attachment to superstition sums it up for me. Who in their right mind today would be scared of a little rustle in the grass? But then 4 years ago we had our whole yard rocked in. lol Now I can honestly be sure that some little movement in the stones is the scurrying of a deadly scorpion or the slither of a poisonous snake. 😦

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  9. Some form of theism is certainly as natural as fear, because it usually arises out of it. The type of god-construct is infinitely variable, but trying to find one is certainly an inbuilt side-effect of becoming a reasoning being.
    However, anthromorphic theism only makes some sense if it arises from a form of panentheism. The fanatical religionist and the fanatical atheist reveal about the same quality (or lack) of rational thought. Probably the most sensible stance of all, given proper analysis of everything we know and don’t know, is the pantheisitically-inclined agnostic.

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    • Broadest possible definition of theism, sure. Me personally, i wouldn’t include ancestor cults or animism. These are supernatural, yes, but not theism. Independent deities and creator spirits required fairly advanced language. In all reality they probably evolved with language; mirroring it to the T. Pantheism is younger than both and is really just an extension of animism…. same idea, better dressed characters.

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      • The broadest definition of pantheism simply boils down to an intelligent universe (or god-in-everything) as opposed to something that simply reacts to that cop-out ‘natural laws’.

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      • Right, so its a god: something external, probably conscious. It’s imagined. A dream of men looking to add a little supernatural spice to mundane terrestrial life.

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      • Not in the least external or supernatural. It postulated as something integral and as natural as all that exists may be. Sentient and intelligent in ways which make our puny little minds seem like those of severely retarded ants.

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      • Imagination, pure and simple. Nature gods… slapping a human personality on the elements because we couldn’t explain them any other way.

        But you’re right about everything boiling down to fear. Paleolithic life was a hellhole, and fear is the great motivator.

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      • Intelligent speculation, rather. Although the imposition of a human personality is much outdated. We still can’t really explain elements – the mechanics, to some degree, but not really what motivates things to happen the way they do and when.
        Fear has largely been replaced by this intelligent speculation.in those not locked into mindlessly mythical religions.

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  10. Nicely written, John. I have long believed that the root of all religion is fear, but I like the way you tied specifically to paranoia and showed how reinforcing fear of the unseen can develop into belief in the unseen.

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  11. This is very interesting (always assuming you have a factual reason to back up your assertions that “No religion has emerged twice anywhere on the planet, no single deity has been envisaged by two populations separated by time and geography, ” etc etc). For the purpose of this comment, I’ll just assume you researched it. Historically, a lot of the religions and superstitions were used to explain the unexplainable. Consequently, you’d think since many of those things are now scientifically explainable, ppl would embrace those answers– Yet some religions stubbornly persist. For some people, Creationism, with no proof, is still more palatable than evolution, with lots of fossilized proof. :/
    I had a “mini-epiphany” a few months ago regarding my own quest for the divine, and I blogged about it as well. It followed along the lines of what you said, which basically amounted to this:
    If no one had taught me I “should” believe in God, acknowledge a religion, etc,(basically, if I had been raised in a completely secular environment) would I still feel the worry/absence of belief like I do?
    I’m guessing not, but I’ll never know, because you can’t ‘unlearn’ experiences. But I wonder if in their quest to teach me their faith, my parents actually ruined me for being a completely happy atheist. :/
    PS. I don’t normally like to link in comments, but since I mentioned it, here is the post I wrote about why we seek God.
    http://alienredqueen.wordpress.com/2012/11/19/why-do-we-seek-god/

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    • Well, consider it this way. You were born an atheist. That’s the cold, hard reality. It is the default position of every child. You un-learnt your atheism, probably by forced indoctrination. I was a Catholic, but no one asked me if I wanted to be. As this unnatural state was written you have to then un-learn that so as to return to the rational, adult world. Secondary atheism is therefore a ‘conclusion,’ not a belief.

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      • Theoretically, how can you be sure everyone is born an atheist, as opposed to just being too immature (in the literal sense) to have a feeling, belief, or conclusion one way or another. A baby is not intellectually equipped to embrace either theism or atheism.

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      • Get 100 babies and isolate them completely for, say, 25 years. Return after 25 years and see if any of those 100 had arrived at Christianity.

        Are you seriously suggesting even one of those 100 would arrive at Christianity?

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      • They wouldn’t arrive at anything if they were completely isolated. That kind of trial would have serious ethical and developmental implications. And even if they had a small knit community of secular people, they might arrive at something (assuming they weren’t actively discouraged) but not call it Christianity. NO ONE arrives to any conclusion without drawing from learning and experiences, and this is not only the case with theology.(Playing devil’s advocate) However whether or not they draw ACCURATE conclusions is debatable. In the absence of rational explanations for events and phenomenon, I imagine they WOULD develop some sort of superstition or another, and wouldn’t said explanations (from secular ppl and scientists) qualify as meddling in the study?

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      • We’re sliding off the rails here, but you know what i’m hitting at: no religion is natural. Theism is abnormal and will never arise twice. It can only prevail if forced upon people through indoctrination. Left alone it would die off in a generation. Yes, something else would probably emerge sometime later, some other nonsense, but it would never be the same nonsense. We can say that with a great deal of confidence as no two examples of religious nonsense have ever arisen anywhere on the planet since recorded history… meaning its all man-made nonsense. Of course, we already know this to be true, but this could easily be an experiment to prove the fact.

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      • If you substitute theism with superstition i’d definitely agree. Theism (especially anthropomorphic theism) is waaaay up the rung on human intervention. I think you might be using a very broad definition of theism, which is cool, but it still wouldn’t apply to something like ancestor cults.

        In the end we’re actually agreeing on the same thing. It’s inevitable for humans to fall into the supernatural in the face of not having answers. The mistake is natural in so far as it is perhaps unavoidable. This only strengthens the fact that all religion is utter bunk 🙂

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    • As a corollary to this discussion of whether babies would spontaneously arrive at religion as their parents understand it (ie, something organized, not the baby’s own “storm god”) would the child of Christians arrive at Christianity, and the child of Hindu parents wake up one day and embrace Hinduism? What would guide the child to choose the “right” religion? What if a baby spontaneously developed a belief in Ra, the sun god and Horus and Seth… is that baby “wrong”?

      (BTW, let me assure you that I do not for a second believe that an infant, if left alone, would dream up Mithras or Thor. No way.)

      No, I don’t think it would develop that way at all. I think a child would go through what our ancestors did, only in miniature: Start out terrified and make up stories explaining why the sun goes away every day and why it for part of the year, and grow up and gradually accumulate knowledge until you realize “Oh, there’s no wolf who eats the sun — it’s just circling the place I live, which is a planet. Well, forget that wolf crap. And maybe all the other stuff I made up is wrong too. Let me investigate that.”

      And once he figures stuff out — without anyone else threatening to burn him at the stake for heresy — boom, another person who doesn’t need a god to keep him warm at night.

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  12. “That is an inalienable, unarguable truth.”

    First of all, nothing is an inalienable, unarguable truth. All truth is subject to the rational skepticism that you so admire.

    It’s understandable to assume that religion arose out of superstition and paranoia, but that is not a fact that can be proven scientifically or even theoretically. You can look at religious people today and notice that they tend to be superstitious, but you could also say that superstitious people tend to be religious. Religion may be the refuge of the superstitious, but using that fact to say that religion came from superstition is using the same logic that you pointed out is flawed: ” irrational mistakes in cognition where we observe one event (B) happening after another event (A) and assume A is responsible for B.”

    The earliest evidence we have of what we now call religion is burial rituals. Now these could have either represented a belief in the afterlife, or simply a way to honor the respected dead, but neither of those seem very superstitious to me. You could argue that belief in an afterlife is superstition, but to me it seems more like a recognition that a person’s “soul” or consciousness is not made of the same things that die and decay, like his body.

    I’m a virgin to your blog so I haven’t read the previous discussion about theism being ‘natural,’ but if I can put my 2 cents in…. It’s true that no two independent cultures came up with the same deity or religion, but isn’t it fascinating that nearly every culture on earth, independently or otherwise, came up with some sort of religion? And actually there are some crazy similarities between myths from around the world that beg the question of whether or not some stories exist in our collective unconscious.

    There is a great segment of a documentary on Joseph Campbell in which he talks about a scene from Jane Goodall’s journals. She describes the male chimps’ shows of dominance, in which one male of the tribe will thrash around making a ruckus to assert his dominance until another male comes to challenge him. She then describes an event where the males of a particular tribe were all gathered on a hillside when a storm rolled in, as soon as the thunder started, all of the males started putting on their shows of dominance, all directed toward the storm clouds. Campbell seemed to see that as evidence that the chimps recognized a dominant being in the clouds, perhaps a primitive morsel of what we call religion.

    To me, religion is not the result of superstition, but imagination. Early humans did not know what caused the storms, so they attributed it to God or the gods, because something had to cause it. This is an exercise in imagination that is necessary to human understanding. It can be argued that religion in fact spurred the pursuit of science. If God controls the universe, then getting closer to God means studying how the universe works. Religion and science were not separate things in ancient societies, they were both pursuits of God.

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      • From space, you can’t be seen. From just below the cloud cover of earth, you can’t be seen. From an airplane, you can’t be seen. You are a speck of dust is the broader scheme of things. Yes, my God wrote the Bible and put He put humility into my heart.

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      • Whatever lights your candle… just don’t knock on peoples doors, and do please keep it out of our schools, our politics, our laws, our science, our military, and off our streets. You do that and we can be friends 🙂

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      • I have blogs that spread the message of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ around the world, hoping that one, just one person will believe it, come to Jesus and be saved. The laws, politics, etc. you speak of are nothing compared to the message of Christ and His saving grace for souls.

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      • Odd, John, that you’re so comfortable with asserting your own beliefs into the world, but you insist that Charlotte must keep hers to herself.There is less evidence that God does not exist than there is evidence that He does, so your assertion of an intellectual high ground is really not valid. The order of the universe suggests that someone or something ordered it. The incredible density of information that is DNA suggests intelligence over randomness. That the vast majority of human beings understand that there is a substantive difference between making someone a nice cup of tea compared to pouring the boiling hot water over their head suggests that there’s a shared morality that springs from somewhere. While you call that superstition, others call it responding appropriately to the evidence.

        Ultimately, your beliefs have as much validity as Charlotte’s, but only as much. In the United States where we enjoy freedom of religion, she has as much right to express her beliefs in your presence as you do in hers. Remember, if you deny her right to express her beliefs, the day may very well come when someone else denies your right to express yours. It’s that whole “first they came for the Jews, and I said nothing … and then they came for me and there was no one left to argue.”

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      • Well, right off the bat, a-theism is not a belief: it’s the default position of every human being. Religion is aberrant and has to be learnt. If ignored for just one generation it’d die off completely. It is therefore unnatural.

        There’s evidence your god exists? Cool, present it now, right here. I’ll examine it with a keen eye. I’m serious and I’ll guarantee you that I’ll appraise any new information with a studious eye. I would caution you though not to try and cite DNA as this evidence. It’s a failed argument. As my good friend, Fourat, wrote: “the human genome is essentially the same genome copied twice over of the amphioxus fish-like marine chordate (the first vertebrate — we are fish variants).”

        Now, morality is an extension of empathy. It’s as simple as that, and empathy is present in all higher order (especially social) creatures. Nice try, but fail. We do not (by and large) act poorly in social groups because that would be counterintuitive. No social creature benefits from group chaos. See, a natural explanation! No god required.

        Again, a-theism is not a belief. Charlotte has every right to express herself, yes, but I’ve had experience with Charlotte before (perhaps you didn’t know this) and all she seems capable of is preaching, not actually engaging in lucid debate. Read through the comments… debate is welcome here. Preaching gets no one anywhere.

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      • John, atheism is not the default position of the human race. By all means, go research it and you will find that almost without exception every culture has some sort of belief in the metaphysical. The source of that belief is arguable, but the fact is that the default position of mankind is belief in something other than the material. Only if your presupposition is that the there is nothing beyond the physical do you arrive at atheism.

        And, may I suggest — though you may not realize it — asserting your belief in a world that is merely physical is as much preaching as is done in any church on Sunday. Anytime you assert your belief … or I assert mine … or Charlotte asserts hers … that is preaching. If someone does not agree with your position, your assertion is just as unwelcome to them as Charlotte’s assertion is unwelcome to you.

        And, I will submit that in a free society that protects the right of conscience and speech, you have no more freedom to state your opinion than does Charlotte. You can refuse to listen, but you cannot say (constiutionally) that she must remain silent or that her beliefs have less validity in public life than do yours.

        If you have a right to your belief (and I support that right 100%), but Charlotte also has a right to her belief and that right is equal to yours.

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      • Hi Aurorawatcherak… A-theism, without theism. Theism must be learnt. A-theism, doesn’t. See the difference? If you have some evidence that contradicts this I’d be happy to review it.

        Now I’d certainly agree we have a tendency to superstition. It appears an inevitable blunder. It is, in the end, just a blunder though. No religion has ever revealed something new. If ignored for just one generation even a religion of a billion adherents would die off and never re-emerge again.

        In case you missed it, my blog is subtitled, Sketches on Atheism. I think that’s a fair disclosure as to what the content will be. Like I said, look through the comments on any article here and you’ll see lively debate. Unlike most theist blogs I visit I do not screen comments nor have I ever banned someone. I wouldn’t dream of doing so. Debate is great. Charlotte, however, preaches… and that is not conversational or a method of debate. It’s preaching. It advances no argument, it adds nothing, and it’s quite frankly a waste of everyone’s time… including, ultimately, Charlotte’s.

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  13. “A breeze bending blades of grass could easily be attributed (albeit in this instance incorrectly) to a stalking lioness and all the dangers that it implied. ”

    If this is your definition of superstition you explained something that is LEARNED. Much like your idea that people are taught religion et al. The vast majority of what we believe and/or react to is something we have each learned since birth (I won’t go into reincarnation but I will hold that to be a variable part that cannot be explained by anything else we understand about human behaviour).

    So, we learn something, we choose how to react and that pretty much stays the same way till we learn to rationalize a new way to react(or run away from someone else’s rationalization that we refuse to accept).

    A fear of fire is not inherent. We learn much of our fears from our experiences. “OW” fire hurts. Ok, so won’t go near THAT again! Learned behaviour.

    Parents teach(or don’t) their kids “Do this or you will go to hell!”. So when a kid grows up, follows a religion, you can hardly call them superstitious. They were taught that, as you pointed out early in your article, and it has been a psychological pathway that was created when they were young because they were afraid of someone bigger, strong and louder than they were.

    So how can you say “In a sentence, nature beatified the neurotic.” and also say “superstition is however also not natural”. Did I miss the correlation of these points?

    The one thing that is severely missing is that all encompassing world of the intangible. It almost seems that you are quite guilty of your own logical thought of “where we observe one event (B) happening after another event (A) and assume A is responsible for B.”. Sure, no two religions have arisen that are identical but how do you explain themes that are way too close in parallel to be considered unrelated, in cultures that have no direct connection? Many of them believed in “Gods in the Sky” Trying to narrow down your observations to specifically defined belief systems is pretty exclusionary and highly irresponsible to say such things. “Since Scientology never existed in the 1500’s in Zimbabwe, this means is it is not natural, thus proving my point.” Circular logic designed to only support your idea and missing(mis-leading?) everyone else into a false sense of “Oh yeah….he’s right!” mob syndrome.

    Given the VAST majority of “spiritual experiences”(kinda over generalizing but there is no other way to describe this), it seems nearly illogical to exclude these people as having experiences just as valid as anyone trying to rationalize the world. Discrediting them is like saying “The world is flat!” as ultimately those same naysayers also say “Prove it to me!” because their mantra is ‘seeing is believing’ despite that the opposite is just as true ‘believing is seeing’.

    Hmm, now I know how Logan Rees feels. Kinda got going on this didn’t I? 🙂

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    • Errr, no, it was my explanation for paranoia… a beneficial thing. Paranoia (making quick, albeit false associations) sets the stage for superstition.

      Now, you seem to be lumping all supernatural beliefs in with theism. This is in error. Animism holds no belief in deities, nor do ancestor cults. I’d fully agree with you an inclination to perceive the supernatural is inevitable to ancient peoples unable to explain lightning, let alone clouds… but that is not theism.
      So, you haven’t made your case that theism (any religion) is in any way natural. If it were, as I pointed out, a single deity would emerge fluidly. That has never happened.

      And don’t worry about long comments. The discussion is always fun 🙂

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      • I look at his universal problem in this way:

        You are born.
        Although you know not why, you are clothed, fed and comforted. It’s as if the universe were taking care of you. Everyone who survives, has this sense of care/love.

        You age a bit.
        Your parents seem to know everything – godlike.

        You age a bit more.
        Your parents, no longer god-like, tell you that there is a god who loves you, and is looking after you.

        You are here now, and never lost the universal sense that someone is watching over and caring for you.

        That’s a simplistic explanation for a psychological trait well defined by Joseph Campbell, though not his scholarly work.

        I was fortunate to spend a couple hours discussing this concept over drinks with Hitch about a year before he passed.

        Fun article, and congrats on being freshly pressed.

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      • You lucky, lucky, lucky man! Oh to have a scotch with Hitchens!

        You’re right, Richard… it is a longing (need) for authority which fuels all of this. The first ancestor cults seem to be proof of that. I wrote an piece/story on this somewhere now hidden in this blog. Good authority (positive authority) is priceless and it seems about 6,000 generations ago we learnt how to keep those positive figures alive in some ethereal landscape. Quite the feat, defeating death… even if it was just imagined. The perceived benefit was real enough, that’s for sure, or the practice would have died out. Instead it just kept getting more and more elaborate.

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      • Even more fun was the time I presented an Honorary PhD In Heresy to Hitch at a luncheon. We ate, had the presentation (he wasn’t well, having just started treatments), then dinner and front row at his debate. Flew to Birmingham for that, great day.

        Such a cool and funny man. Missed by so many.

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      • Stop it. Now you’re just rubbing it in, Richard!

        Yes, the sentiment is true… he is missed. Great minds should be honoured, and he was in possession of one the sharpest. A true champion of a our bumbling species.

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  14. Nice observations and clever, well-written delivery… I like your bottom line here, with paranoia; I find that often I’m so put off by others’ “superstition” that I don’t go beyond mocking their surface-behavior, but there are definitely some evolutionary tea leaves there worth examining.
    It’s amazing what you can prove with the “saber-toothed tiger” argument! 🙂

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  15. Pingback: Freshly Riffed 24: This Job Is Gonna Kill Me | A VERY STRANGE PLACE

  16. I’m really glad to have discovered this blog. I was particularly struck by your statement “No religion has emerged twice anywhere on the planet, no single deity has been envisaged by two populations separated by time and geography, and not a solitary person in history has arrived independently at Mithraism,… (etc.)” It seems so obvious, yet I was surprised to only realize it when I read your post. Thank you.

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    • Hi Anne! It does make you think, doesn’t it. One would assume if anything in theism was in fact real then it should pop up in the same form in every population. Even if we give some wiggle room for culture and language differences there still doesn’t exist a single case of something even remotely similar emerging twice.

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    • 🙂 Hell no, i don’t think its unhealthy. I love superstitions. I think they’re wonderful cultural gems. Same with mysticism. It’s a priceless cultural artifact. Problems come to bear when it becomes desperately malformed and begins affecting/effecting peoples lives.

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    • Hi Katie, fortunately (for me) its a fairy airtight argument 🙂 There are some theists who like this blog (good people, if not a little wacky in their beliefs) but none have yet been able to present a counter-argument. Good lord… i think we found the exhaust shaft in their Death Star! 🙂

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  17. Love the post especially the beginning. I’ve always wondered why the Judeo-Christian God didn’t send any Asian or African prophets. Pretty racist of God I must say.

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  18. Pingback: Paranoia, meet theism. Theism, this is paranoia… your biological father. | Trials and Tribulations.

  19. Pingback: Paranoia, meet theism. Theism, this is paranoia… your biological father. | Riot in my head.

  20. From someone with “solid” faith, I found this very interesting. Things I had never considered, like how no two beliefs are exactly the same in any one time and place in the world. But different religeons have eerily similar foundations. Higher power, the quest for goodness, forgiveness, etc? In a lot of ways they believe many of the same things, but with different traditions. Which is indicative of their cultural background and timeline, right?
    I can’t even pretend to have any, let alone all of the answers, and I appreciated your thought provoking post. If anything, it’s the subject of a great debate, and I love intense discussion.
    Great job!

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    • Cheers, Cookie! I would definitely agree that discovering (inventing) the supernatural was inevitable. Give a beast enough neurons and no answers and it’s bound to happen 🙂

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  21. Wow, well spake! I can’t wait to thoroughly peruse your archives. It’s not that often that I find a well-written atheist blog that doesn’t come across as shrill or defensive. You have a new fan, Sir! 😀

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  22. “… not a solitary person in history has arrived independently at Mithraism, Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Scientology or Judaism without it first being taught to them.”

    False. The creators of these religions *did* arrive at these conclusions independently, most probably after some kind of seizure, schizophrenic episode, or other psychotic phenomenon. It’s just too bad that their word was taken the wrong way; instead of determining that this is a very serious problem in modern culture, some people choose to believe that these people are speaking very serious truths. I weep for the entire human population.

    I love this blog so much I can’t even

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    • Good call! I stand corrected! 🙂

      Yeah, we chose a pretty hapless team to support, but I’ll still be a cheerleader for us naked apes. one day we’ll turn good, hopefully.

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  23. Well written post, really. You are a gifted writer. To each his own, and I can understand where you are coming from. Things like this are hard to grasp, I still haven’t fully grasped it, nor will I. All I can say is that I have seen my Savior change my life. Taking me from a hateful unbeliever and showing me my worth. I thought life was about myself and my success and then I saw that there were hurting people that needed help and I wanted to stop looking at myself and start helping. I saw this father who loved me and I wanted to put my life into His capable hands. I respect your beliefs entirely and am not trying to shove Jesus on you. That’s not how it should be. I just know what God did through me and for me and I can’t deny Him when He has been so evident in my life. Again, very well written and congrats on being Freshly Pressed! That’s an awesome accomplishment man.

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    • Cheers! I can assure you, though, it’s rather simple to be good without god. But as you said, each to their own. Just wish that was a message evangelical fundamentalists could understand, and practice 😉 Peace!

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      • I can agree with that, unfortunately sometimes God is used simply as a “crutch”, if you will, that people use only when you can’t stand on your own and people get the wrong idea of God in general through that. Nice chatting with you though, really. Often times us Christians can be very closed minded when we shouldn’t be that way at all. I enjoyed hearing what you had to say. Thanks for taking the time to respond! 🙂

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  24. In psychological terms, we are each inherently equipped with a Hyperactive Agency Detection Device (HADD), which is mostly to blame for personal and cultural paranoia, yet had an important role in our evolutionary survival (as you remarked). Before I was writing a blog about pies I was writing a polemic against natural theology for my honours thesis. Who would have thought. Keep up the good writing, it is enjoyable to read.

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  25. Nonsense. The first ‘religions’ were nature worship and appeasement, hunting spells and man’s attempt to gain some control over his environment. Also basic religious symbols such as the Tree of Life or Knowledge (the one Eve fed from) and the great floods, hero sagas and much, much more occur globally long before it’s considered that widely separated groups ever communicated with one another. Paranoia is a very viable survival instinct learned by centuries of being low on the food chain. Your flip has overwhelmed your reason and your lack of knowledge is glaring.

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    • Woah, slow down there, friend. You seem pretty sure the first religions were nature worship, ie. Animism. Perhaps you’re not aware but the standard anthropological model has ancestor cults as the first, as expressed with the first Paleolithic burials with grave goods. The earliest of these presently known is 90,000BCE, 2,800 generations before the first anthropomorphic gods were invented. . After animism came Totemism then probably very early manifestations of pantheism which ultimately lead to anthropomorphic deities.

      And yes, if you’d actually read the article (which its clear you didn’t) I said paranoia was a very useful adaption. The ability to make quick, albeit mostly false, casual associations saved us an awful lot of grief… and so nature beatified the neurotic.

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      • It’s been thirty, no forty years since I trained in cultural anthro and I learned then that standard models are based on old information and obsolete observations and are promoted by old men who have built careers and prestige with this misinformation and who are deathly afraid of new ideas. I also learned that the only way to come close to truth is to observe the evidence and make up your own mind. My reasoning comes from direct observation of SE Asian hill tribes in the early seventies during military service. By then they were mostly Buddhist but old spiritualism and practices survived and these were to appease the spirits of the land. Ancestors were certainly respected and honored, but not worshiped. I stand by my opinions and reject, not out of hand but after consideration, the establishment view. As a newspaper reporter I covered lots of ‘meetings,’ city council, county supervisors, college boards, and anon and every one turned into a pissing contest with every speaker only interested in topping the last speaker’s points and with little regard for the facts at hand. When people form groups, idiocy blossoms.

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      • I can respect that. By in large, though, you were missing the principle thrust of the point i was making. If there were even a hair of truth in any mythology it would have appeared twice. The fact that it hasn’t is pretty solid evidence all mythology is just that: creative myth. Now don’t get me wrong, I love mythology. I think its a priceless cultural artifact and I promote modern fairytales. It’s why I have Alice in my About section.

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  26. Congratulations on a great post and on getting freshly pressed, you deserve it! Your blog is one of my favourites so its good to see it getting the attention it deserves. I always love your solid, well thought out arguments. Keep up the good work!

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  27. Not being a frequenter of the Freshly Pressed page…in fact I am lucky if my trousers are freshly pressed these days, I missed all the Hoopla.
    Yes, well done, John! Congrats from this SA ‘Johnny come Lately’.

    As others have noted, you are a fine writer, and a lot more tolerant and erudite than me in the face of nitwits!
    This was a smashing post especially the line ‘Anthropomorphic theism is about as natural as tennis rackets, ice cream cones and bikinis.” (which still makes me chuckle) and worthy of the recognition.
    Good one.

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  28. Pingback: paranoia raises its ugly head again | violetwisp

  29. The fear of God is the beginning of knowledge. When you fear God alone there is no need for superstitions and paranoia. Hindus, Muslims, Zoroastrians, Rastafarians, Christians, Jews and many other groups all believe in One God that is the creator, the beginning, the end and the judge. These are major similarities across the world.

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    • Sure, these are all similar for the one simple reason that they have the same origin: Zoroastrianism. The six-part Judaic creation story, the cardinal couple Mashya and Mashyana (Adam and Eve), the duality of the universe, the human condition, the concept of Free Will, and even the End Times prophecies with a Saoshyant – a saviour figure – were all lifted in their entirety from the far older Zoroastrianism; a religion that would have been well-known to the biblical Abraham before he (a moniker presumably for a tribe) packed up his bags and migrated west from Ur, Mesopotamia, around 1,700 B.C.E. Christians and Muslims are simply Judaism 2.0 and 3.0.

      These four religions (including Rastafarians which is simply a Christian/Condomble hybrid) are cousins. To establish your point you’d have to present unrelated religions demonstrating the same canons, deities and beliefs.

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  30. Wowza! Hope you’re feeling freshly starched and clean. 🙂 Congratulations, you deserve this. For the man who hates awards, you’ve landed the big prize, I’m proud of you. Best of all you don’t even need to answer questions – so bask in this honor and enjoy.Hugs

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  31. I really envy you. I’d love to be a happy aetheist, but SOMETHING, like the speck of grit in an oyster, won’t let me,It’s totally irrational- or perhaps beyond the rational- and it works for me. It gives a needed shape to my life. You’re lucky to be so sure that you’re right- but then creative doubt/faith hasn’t let me down yet.

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  32. I apologize in advance for the lengthy response, but I do have several comments and observations to make:

    First, this argument commits a form of the genetic fallacy, which claims that just because you explain how something may have began, that definitively explains how it did begin. But this is a non-quantifiable assertion, and so we must label it as such. This is speculation built upon presupposition, with little extant evidence. And whatever evidence is available hardly presents a slam dunk case. Academic consensus on the rituals and reasons for many of this early information is not uniform. The strongest assertions, again, are built upon the strongest presuppositions. Not that this is bad, but it must be taken into consideration.

    Also, the arguments in this post are bordering on ad hominem and poisoned well arguments, to say that contemporary superstitious people give any credence or understanding to the actual formation. In a sense, the argument sometimes poses this philosophical proof: “Hey, doesn’t this paranoid event look silly? Therefore, you don’t want to be associated with religion, and all religions started from paranoia.”

    Before going any further, we must realize that you and I have two different worldviews and, therefore, different presuppositions. You presuppose that a god does not exist, and therefore you read all data through that lens and arrive at satisfying results. I, however, presuppose that God (from a Judeo-Christian worldview) does exist, and so I arrive at different results from the same data. Now, at this point, we could go back and forth giving philosophical proofs, which might take a lot of energy and ultimately be fruitless. Of course, I am willing to do this for fun, but we are all too busy I’m sure. I did want to post this, though, because people of faith might find this blog post and, in my opinion, be lead astray by arguments that I think are anything but airtight, which is how you have described them (this is not an attack on your intellect or the argument itself, more just a comment on the claims made about the argument). I think that a more open and humble approach could serve the post well. Some of your comments definitely show your humility, which I do appreciate. We are all faced with the same mysteries and uncertainties, after all.

    And now, a quick case study:

    My own conversion wasn’t one of superstition, paranoia, or any other fear-based thought system. I was, one might say, a content atheist enjoying recreational drug use (well, more abusive than that probably) and loose sexual morals. I am NOT saying that those things are equivalent with atheism at all, friends. Just being transparent to show that paranoia isn’t a necessary precursor, and I am exhibit A. Now we can perhaps say that I was under the cloud of a cultural, or evolutionarily ingrained paranoia that led to my conversion, but I wouldn’t agree with that either, at least not in any deterministic way. I unintentionally picked up a book in a friend’s office that I assumed, from the cover, would be a good atheist read. When I opened it up, I saw that it was actually a Christian apologetics book. I decided to read it anyway, since I had only really read from one side of the debate. Well, needless to say, this book sent me on a larger quest, and through this intellectual pursuit I came to strong belief in the person of Christ. That was not the end of the journey, and it still goes on today. I think both sides to a disservice to the other when we assume that ignorance is the basis for their beliefs. After this conversion, I received my B.S. in biology from Purdue and was also able to take several religion and philosophy classes, along with the regular biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, and calculus classes. I found my appreciation for God and belief in God strengthened. Surprisingly (considering some of the disinformation about “secular” education), several of my science professors were Christians. Not all of them, but many of them.

    And quickly, while I don’t disagree with an idea of fight or flight (which, again, we would arrive at through different presuppositions), I would question that every thread of paranoia is built into our genetic code. How much if this is taught behavior? For instance, some people do jump at the possibility of a mouse. Had you not grown up in a culture afraid of rodents, would you have the same reaction? So which reaction is taught – the one that is afraid of the mouse, or the one that isn’t? Or is it neither, are we neutral toward the unknown at first? We can use this example for any fear. It is advantageous for lions to hate hyenas, and yet when lions are raised with hyenas, they live as one family (which has been demonstrated in captivity). I believe the leap for insights you’ve gained in this realm to theism is quite a leap, indeed. And your claim that theism is unnatural is more in agreement with mine. If a Creator did create, then that Creator would be outside of nature, existing before it, and be unnatural. The only option for atheists would then be to say that theism must be entirely natural, not divine, not existing without but only within. And although it is a little off-topic (but definitely related), I believe that Alvin Plantinga’s “Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism” would be helpful here, although I do realize that you have self-identified as an atheist, and not necessarily a naturalist.

    I do thank you for your post, though. You do have a gift for writing, and I thought you were incredibly funny as well! My post could potentially be a chance for back and forth dialogue, but I was hoping more to just post it as a counterpoint. At this point, I don’t know if either one of us could be convinced by arguments to change opinion, considering we may have heard all of the arguments before. I know that there would be no arguments that could change my mind, but this should not be confused with close-mindedness. Holding convictions for good reasons is hardly close-minded. And I would say the same for you, that you seem utterly convinced, but are not close-minded. And at this point, any plea made toward you (at least, any non-divine plea) would probably be ineffectual. I guess stranger things have happened, though.

    If I do post on more blogs posts here, I promise to keep them shorter 🙂

    Respectfully,
    Derek

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    • And in reference to the “unnatural” comments I made, that is “unnatural” in one sense of the word. My beliefs would obviously have God in nature in some sense of the word. I was only arguing the term on the basis in which I believe you have used it.

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    • Hi Derek, thanks for the thoughtful reply.

      Right off the bat I think you’re drawing too strong a line between the correlations. Brevity is a skill, but don’t presuppose that there isn’t a PhD dissertation or two lurking inside each sentence. I don’t have a PhD in anthropology so this post may be viewed as the best effort to produce mildly amusing art from academia. Your cautionary points though are sound, although I would draw your attention to the broadness of the statements issued. The main point being our tendency to make quick, albeit most false causal associations, was deemed more evolutionary beneficial than careful scepticism. This, in itself, is not paranoia, rather the platform upon which paranoia is erected. Said in another way, we’re predisposed to paranoia… and that is a natural state.

      Now, you say I presuppose god doesn’t exist. That is actually the default position. Every child is born atheist. Theism is new information superimposed over the default. Now, as there is no evidence for the gods we must assume the gods do not exist. The positive claim, the gods exist, bears the full weight of the Burden of Proof… and so far no deity has ever been proven. Until that happens the negative, no gods exist, is the only rational position to hold. If you have some new information on this matter I’d be happy to review it with an honest eye. Absolutes are irrational, so I’ll always leave that 1% room for doubt and be prepared to shift my position as new information comes to light.

      Cheers, and all the very best
      J

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      • Your points on paranoia are well-taken, and I would not want to argue for paranoia not being a helpful evolutionary tool. I would only caution on the determinative side of things.

        As far as atheism being the default position, I would disagree with that. Every child is born atheist, in a sense, although I would prefer saying agnostic here. Every child is also born not believing in their mother, who feeds them daily. They don’t know because they can’t know because they can’t yet comprehend. They don’t believe in mathematical truths, but they do exist.

        What one must wrestle with next is that, regardless of where a people came from and their specific paranoia-triggers, they all develop some idea of the divine, or harmony; a good and a bad, desirable and undesirable metanarratives. This goes beyond simple “hot water burn baby” type of paranoia, though. The ancients, although ignorant of the sciences that we now have today, made philosophical assumptions based on what they saw. And they arrived at particular independently, but they did all arrive somewhere. Now perhaps this is collective memory, but that will not be easy to prove. But more on this in the next paragraph. We can either attribute this entirely to the outcome of natural selection, or see it as an outcome of being created in the image of God, and having a heart oriented toward a relationship with God. The difference is in specifics, which can be explained in more detail, but I will table that now for the sake of focus.

        You would make the claim that having no evidence of god (which many would disagree with) means you can’t prove god’s existence, and therefore it is the default position. I would agree, that any god’s existence is impossible to prove, but it is also impossible to disprove. And looking at the evidence of orderliness and fine-tuning in the universe, many are faced with a shift in the burden of proof (it must now be claimed that the undeniable appearance of fine-tuning to sustain life is a random process of trial and error within shifting environments). Any claim is subject to the burden of proof, positive or negative. But one could state your claim positively, if that would make it easier to argue from. For example, “Material is all that exists” or some other sufficient statement. One would eventually have to argue away the appearance of fine-tuning and and of original causation.

        And another evidence, at least from my worldview, is that Jesus is a proof for God. Now in order to prove that, we would have to get right back into the issue of Scripture reliability, which is a huge and separate topic (one for which the books I recommended on the other post would be helpful). Interestingly, Christopher Hitchens (who I loved reading and listening to) said one time that he really didn’t care if someone, in fact, DID die and then rise from the dead and then ascend to the sky — he still didn’t think that meant he had to accept that the person was the Son of God and therefore had to be agreed with. So ultimately, each argument will not be completely convincing on its own, but I think some of these are at least interesting to at and ponder. And the reason I recommend reading the actual works of people from opposite viewpoints is because many times the views attributed to them by their adversaries are only broad-sweep caricatures.

        By the way, where do you reside? I will find your bio page later hopefully. I ask now because I have English friends and Australian friends who use some of the same language, which has really confused me and made it more difficult to stereotype people based on their geographical location, haha!

        Oh, one other thing I loved about Christopher Hitchens: a shared affection for Bob Dylan. Chris will be missed! He was in a very good documentary where he traveled around with a Christian apologist and they had several debates together. It is called “Collision” and is available for streaming online for free. Definitely worth a watch. Perfect date night movie 🙂

        Blessings (or good luck, haha),
        Derek

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      • Hi Derek… sorry to say, but every child, without exception, is born atheist. There is no “in a sense” here. It’s a rigid truth and this alone quashes all notions of all gods.

        Now, you didn’t provide any proof for your particular god, just an observation that the universe behaves in a particular way and not another. That is evidence for the universe (and life finding its way within those parameters), nothing else. Sorry, but you’ll have to do much better than that to advance some concept of the gods. 🙂

        I’m Australian but I live in Brazil. Peace.

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      • Yes, I didn’t give any particular evidence for my particular God, just because the discussion here seems to be more focused on “a god” in general. However, our discussion in the other thread (“puff goes Jesus”) is more about particulars. But again, there are many things that babies don’t know about when they are born, but that does not mean they don’t exist. Again, they don’t believe because they can’t believe because they can’t know. There are many things that we still don’t know about now, as adults, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist, it just means that we don’t know. Some people know what quarks are, some people do not … does that mean they don’t exist? No one was born believing in them. So are they aquarkist or are they agnostic with regards to quarks? And there is much now that is still not understood about the nature of quarks. So do scientists stop believing they exist, or do they understand that they don’t know completely? I really think you are confusing the idea of atheism with necessary agnosticism due to the brain development process. Scripture says that the heavens and earth declare His name, and I believe this “general revelation” is a reason for universal understanding of divine necessity. Now as for comments made about Christian claims being nonsense, I have purposely not latched onto that antagonistic bait because believing can only come through faith and understanding. But one must be willing to understand first. I think in light of what I presented here and elsewhere, it at least merits another investigation from you, using some of the sources I have mentioned. You did mention looking at some of them before, but you may look again. I feel that if you would look again and internalize some of the data, a lot of our discussion here would probably not need to take place. And hear me, I say this with the most humble and gentle of hearts, and not in any way attempting to come across as superior or holier than thou. But I would urge you to take another look into the person of Jesus, and his claims. Look into apologetic issues, starting with the two Strobel books (but using references in the book to further study if you would like). And at the end of that journey, ask yourself the famous question posed by C.S. Lewis: Was Jesus a liar, a lunatic, or Lord? Bart Ehrman adds another option with “legend”. Now I know that many you and probably many of your readers would answer liar, lunatic, or legend. But again, I urge a wrestling with reputable sources that would run counter to your own opinions. Go straight to the horse’s mouth if you will.

        Now I have read much from my earlier atheist years, and even now, from many of the “new atheist” camp. But I don’t want to seem like a professor who only gives homework but does none of his own. Is there anything that you would prefer I read, perhaps an area you feel I’ve overlooked in my own knowledge? I would be happy to engage with any seminal texts that you enjoy. I would even be willing to write my honest thoughts on it afterword and perhaps discussing what we read. This doesn’t need to be over the message boards, though. If you’re interested, I would be up for it.

        I once had friends on ICQ from Brazil back in the day through a Guns N’ Roses chat group. I believe her name was Gabrielle del Bianca, and I think she said she was the aunt of a famous supermodel there. Of course, you can create whatever bio you want on the internet, so who knows 🙂

        Cheers, mate

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      • Scripture also says Unicorns exist (Isaiah 34:7) 🙂

        Now, I appreciate your appeal, but sadly nothing you’ve presented so far merits any further investigation. You’ve not advanced the cosmological argument. You’ve merely inserted “god” without an explanation why. That’s amateur apologetics at best.

        I have no “homework” for you. If a person chooses a non-rational path then that is their choice. Unfortunately for you it comes with all the baggage of failed apologetics. The fact that apologetics even exists is proof your religion is wrong. I however wish you every success. You sound like a decent human being, and as a humanist I applaud that.

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      • I think you need a modern translation, not the King James Version. No unicorns, sorry 🙂

        And like I said previously, we could go back and forth on philosophical proofs, but that wasn’t really the point at this juncture. I would certainly be up for that, though, but I feel your are now bored with me, haha! We were mostly discussing flaws in your own argumentation, which I criticized as being severely speculative without any hard (or soft) data. But that is fine. I see that we have reached the end of our discussion. When one persons says “well, I don’t need to say anymore because you have failed, but good luck” then that usually means “I can’t refute this, and I want it to stop now”. I find that most of your criticisms of my posts are on points I haven’t attempted to make, which is another decent strategy, but I don’t think I am the one who needs to try harder and has failed in his approach. But I still urge you to continue to dig deeper.

        And defending something isn’t proof that it isn’t true. Do you know what lots of scientists do? They defend their theses! And all of their theories are based off of interpretations of data that are defending their hypotheses. This isn’t unique to the Christian faith. But again, a clever redirect.

        Okay, now I’m getting mouthy, and after you gave me a compliment 🙂 I do hope I have come across as a decent human being. You have as well. I wish you all the best.

        I just want to add that where I speak above I really don’t mean to criticize you as a person. I only criticize the perceived strategies. But I could be wrong about your motives. Perhaps my experiences that lead me to think those ways are flawed, and I don’t want to seem like I am attacking your character at all.

        The best to you and yours,
        Derek

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    • @ Derek
      A Christian must accept that Jesus is God but to understand Christianity means to realise that this is a lie.

      Accept it or don’t. It wont alter the fact that it is the truth.

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      • I’m not sure exactly what you mean by this, but if it is a theology issue, I would prefer you contact me to discuss it outside of this blog. This probably isn’t the right venue for a discussion on Christian theology 🙂 And I’ve taken up my fair share of space on here as it is!

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      • Let me elucidate..and John will have no objections, I assure you.
        If I understand correctly, you are a Christian and the primary tenet of your faith is that Yashua is the god of your faith/religion, Christianity.
        If you understand the history of your faith you will know that godhood was bestowed upon him by the church,promulgated into law, by Theodosius which opened the floodgates to declare every opposing viewpoint heresy, which saw the attempted eradication of all dissent including , in some cases, near genocidal campaigns.
        This religion was then exported across the globe and enforced on local indigenous populations by the likes of the Jesuits among others.

        So,I reiterate.
        A Christian must accept that Yashua is God but to UNDERSTAND Christianity means to realise that this is a lie.
        I hope this is clear enough?

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      • Ahhh okay, thank you for your clarification! Now, of course I disagree and would consider myself well-versed in Scripture and Christian history (even the ugly stuff!) … do you want the long answer or the short answer? 🙂

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      • Dereck, Hi. While you and the Ark are working away here there’s an excellent post over on a blog-pals site. She’s an atheist, a former evangelical, and really knows her stuff. She used to teach bible studies. i’d be interested to hear what you think of her easter post… when you get a chance, of course. Cheers! Link below.

        http://clubschadenfreude.wordpress.com/2013/03/27/not-so-polite-dinner-conversation-easter-the-supposed-events-and-implications/#comment-987

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      • Sure, I’ll check it out soon! But just like I told Ark, I’m no longer on Spring Break, so my free time has dropped drastically 🙂 But I will definitely get back with you.

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    • @ Derek

      ”Ahhh okay, thank you for your clarification! Now, of course I disagree and would consider myself well-versed in Scripture and Christian history (even the ugly stuff!) … do you want the long answer or the short answer? ”

      Ahhh. Well, that depends. I will take either if it is an historical answer.
      But you can save your fingers if any part of it is polemic, or out of the, William Lane Craig Handbook of Evangelical Apologetic BullDust. Because, believe me when I say, I have heard every angle, every shred of dingbat philosophy, epistemology, and every Theological Two step you can imagine.

      So give it your best shot, and I mean that sincerely for you might actually have something, right?
      But I will say up front, I wont even bther with a polite reply if it smudges the lines or ventures into doctrine to try and justify historical fact.

      Go for it, Derek. I have my coffee. I am sitting comfortably.Let’s see what you got.
      The floor is yours…

      Like

      • Okay, first I must mention two things:
        1) Earlier when I was posting back and forth with John, I was on Spring Break and had a little more free time. So it may take me longer to get back to you each time now that I’m back in classes.
        2), I can disagree on grounds of Scripture and on grounds of early church history. But if I’m hearing you right, you would prefer that I stick to history. I will mostly do this, but to understand the history, what the Scripture actually says is important. Regardless of what Theodosius did, what the Scriptures actually say, and how the early church though, will be important.

        So I hope to get back with you within 1 or 2 week with a full response, once I can give it my full attention! Thanks for your patience.

        Like

      • “I can disagree on grounds of Scripture and on grounds of early church history. But if I’m hearing you right, you would prefer that I stick to history. I will mostly do this, but to understand the history, what the Scripture actually says is important. Regardless of what Theodosius did, what the Scriptures actually say, and how the early church though, will be important.

        So I hope to get back with you within 1 or 2 week with a full response, once I can give it my full attention! Thanks for your patience.”

        I don’t have any preference as to how you reply. But if you use scripture my response will have you running for your tissue box, I guarantee it. There is nothing in scripture that can be irrefutably backed by history as it pertains to your argument.
        Without being presumptuous you look a bit too young to be skilled in the way of apologetics, and I doubt you could do a better job than William Lane Craig, who is a monumental prat.
        As far as scripture goes, Ehrman is the go to man for this and the complete rubbishing of any notion that Jesus was divine.
        Archaeology you must look to Finklestein and Herzog.

        So bear all of the above in mind before you put ‘pen to paper’ as I promise you if you offer up together some sort of piss-willy philosophical treatise on Christianity and why it must be true based on dickheads like CS Lewis and the inerrant word of your god, and some half arsed interpretation of the gospels then you are going to get short shrift from me, Derek, I assure you .
        For your own sake, tread lightly.

        Like

      • Sorry for the length of time it has taken to get back to this. I can’t promise any quicker reply in the future, either. I’ve stayed busy with school and have taken on extra jobs, so free time here is not in ample supply. That being said, looking back over the last comment. I have serious doubts that this will be a civil discussion where attempts to understand are pursued, but I hope I am wrong about that. But for that reason, I’m sure this will be a short discussion.

        1) What do Scriptures say that Jesus claimed? What do the letters say that Jesus claimed? – The Scriptures and letters clearly claim, when properly understood in their proper contexts, that Jesus is God. Some of these claims are obvious, but some of them are subtle and require an understand of particular contexts. Some of them, too, aren’t properly understood unless one has a grasp on Greek grammar. I can give examples if necessary. And it doesn’t stop there. The Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Greek (somewhere around the late 2nd century BC). Many of the words used for Yahweh in the Old Testament, translated into Greek, are then used for Christ. These are words that the faithful would have dared not use for anyone other than the true Lord.

        2) What was the conflict really? Not over whether he was God or not, but how much of a God he was (homoousion, homoiousion, or heteroousion; same God, similar but different in some ways, or different but still divine). Everyone could see that it was plain that he made claims to divinity. And the actions recorded of Jesus make that plain. But as the church grew, it started to formulate things and try to find “orthodox” teaching. This was all starting before Theodosius. The problem is, in the 1st century, the writers probably clearly understood Scripture better, but dn’t feel the need to make a “systematic theology” of these things. They mostly had pastoral concerns of having a “good witness” to those around them. The only thing you could argue on here is that the texts have been corrupted beyond repair, which is a ridiculous claim. If this needs to be a discussion on textual criticism of the New Testament, then we can go there as well. But just to mention quickly, most of the “changes” to the NT that many authors sound the alarm about were just attempts to clear up the grammar as it changed through time. And if one manuscript used an article as a pronoun (which was fairly common), and then a later scribe decided it would be easier just to use the pronoun as the practice of using an article for a pronoun subsided, then these alarmist scholars would count every single instance of the actual pronoun being used (because, remember, it is being copied from the version now where a scribe changed an articular pronoun to just a pronoun) is counted as a “mistake”. The numbers are inflated to say the least.

        3) Just because bad things happened following, that does not mean that the pronouncements were false. Just because it was made “official” then, it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t presumed true in the Scriptures. The point is, the actions taken to secure it don’t render it false, it just renders the actions abhorrent and unfortunate. But the problem here is more about the church becoming intertwined with the state, which definitely began to take hold with the conversion of Constantine (or “conversion”).

        So the argument falls apart before we even get to Nicaea and Theodosius. They attempted, at Nicaea, to formalize and come up with a “right” answer to a difficult problem that probably wasn’t so difficult in the 1st century. We have to keep in mind that many of the small, more confusing details were probably understood in their time, and the glaring realities presented (such as Jesus being God) were absolutely understood. And since those are easy to see, the small minority of difficulties are usually interpreted within that framework of what we know for sure. And the homoousion group wasn’t the only one grasping. The heteroousion group was actually more powerful following the pronouncement of Nicaea, which was a surprising move. But they eventually lost out. Now whether these were guys fighting for what they thought was of the utmost importance and was right, or whether they just wanted power politically and militarily, is really secondary to the whole argument. To sum up, the argument from the beginning commits two fallacies: ad hominem and red herring.

        But to clarify, I am not justifying the acts of person of Theodosius I. But the acts, and the person, don’t render the doctrine incorrect, which is your hypothesis. I am not using doctrine to justify historical fact, as you have wished. But to say that one of the central claims of Christianity is false because of the actions taken by Theodosius to impose the Nicene Creed on the Christian world is to use historical fact to disqualify a doctrine, which is just as fallacious.

        Like

      • Point 1.
        Not a single (non-Christian) biblical scholar will agree with this. But William Lane Craig might smile and nod.
        Your response is biased and unsubstantiated. Next you will be telling me that the OT prophecies were fulfilled.
        Sorry…this is a
        Fail.

        Point 2.
        Mark is the only gospel worth reading as this was the basis for Matthew and Luke. John is pretty much a waste of time for this issue.
        The long ending in Mark is almost universally acknowledged to be a later Christian add-on. Therefore no Resurrection.

        Therefore:
        Fail.

        Point 3.
        Even before Nicaea there were many versions in circulation and almost anyone could claim their version/text was divinely inspired. The drive toward canonization was largely because of Marcion.
        What followed is history, and Constantine and that other lying sack of shit, Eusebius played a significant role in ensuring the rubbish you read today was the only authorized version of the bible.
        They made it up, Derek. Sorry sport.
        You are once again trying to be clever but you are not being intelligent.

        Therefore, once again.
        Fail.

        Like

      • Haha! That is a funny response, and one I am now used to from atheists. I’ve found it is mostly a waste of time to even try. You refuse to actually look at the context of the times, consider the flow of orthodox Christianity from the Apostles through the Fathers and to the early church, or take seriously Greek grammar, textual criticism, historical reaction to Jesus, or anything else that is a non-rhetoric talking point. But your non-serious and non-engaging response is automatically suspect, which is actually very sad. I’m not even sure why you asked the question in the first place if you already “knew” the answers. But, you have some nicely placed sarcasm and you’ve succinctly ridiculed my response, and I’m sure that will be good enough for the Barnes and Noble theologians and philosophers of the world.

        But I will pray for your eyes to be opened. I sincerely want you to know that you’re loved by the One who created you. Please embark on a serious quest for truth and choose your authors wisely. Many who dislike WL Craig still cannot refute him. But that being the case, there are many other available authors to choose depending on your particular qualms.

        This will be my last response, so you may have the last words. I’m sure they’ll be very humorous and condescending! Many blessings to you. I really do mean that.

        Like

      • Craig is an ass, and most people have refuted him.
        Twits like you just don’t accept it, that’s all. He is an anachronism. Furthermore are you aware that like many of his ilk he is obliged to sign a contract of employment that states he acknowledges the biblical text is inerrant? The literal inspired word of god?
        WTF! This is the 21st century.
        At some places in the States students must sign as well! Do you realise how this stunts positive uninhibited inquiry?
        Licona also had to sign one and when he released his book in 2010 where he stated the zombie apocalypse didn’t really happen there was a minor uproar in evangelical circles and demands for him to write a retraction. This one sentence was the only issue in his whole book.One Damn sentence!. He didn’t write a retraction and was summarily fired from his position.
        And we all thought the Inquisition was over, right?

        Guess what I think of your evangelical posturing Derek?
        Silly Person.

        Like

  33. My word, I loved reading this. I am exploring different theories myself after being recently shaken from my Christian upbringing due to some serious thought on the issue. Particularly, the troubling contradictions within scripture itself.
    This post was an interesting piece to consider, so thank you for sharing! Also, as an aspiring Journalist, I am extremely impressed by your writing style and structure. Spectacular and inspiring.

    Like

  34. Well written and interesting read. I have long held the belief that God is a necessary creation of the mind. A way to make sense of things we could not previously comprehend, and then later a way to impose the will of one man over another. I find the idea (alluded to by one of your commentors) that the universe is orderly therefore God exists, ludicrous. We have no idea how long or how many universes it took for this one to arise as it is. It is here because it became this way when it did and we arose to bear witness. As much as I wish I could believe in a God, it just seems so ridiculously unlikely as to be laughable as a belief.

    Like

    • I stand with you on that observation!

      I like the way you put it, “we arose to bear witness.” It reminds me of Brian Cox’s explanation for life: “Life is the universe trying to understand itself.”

      Like

  35. I’m always chuffed when I find an article that is informative, well-written, well thought out, and manages to entertain too. I like your style.

    Like

  36. 1) religion has nothing to do with superstution.
    If there is no such thing as God then how is it posible that a man Muhammad PBUH was given a book which contained scientific facts which the world came to know after more than 10 centuries later. How is it possible that the Book years before the event predicted that withen the near future both Muhammad PBUH will be triumphant over the Makkans and the Romans will defeat the Presians at a time when it was almost clear that the roman empire is too weak to compete with the persians. this was so clear at that time that when these verses were revealed a Makkan bet 100 camels on it. he said that if this prophecy becomes true he will give 100 camels and vice versa. I ask, how is it possible that The Holy Quran contains the stories of people with which the arabs were unaware of. People say ,God forbid, that Muhammad PBUH wrote the book or dictated it, but they dont know that he did not know how to read or write.

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    • Scientific facts, huh? Ok, I’ll bite… Provide examples of the scientific “facts” you speak of.

      He bet 100 camels!!! ONE HUNDRED CAMELS!!! Ah, but were they virgin camels?

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  37. Rather exceptional post…loved it (Great comments also)…One question, curious of your thoughts..who do you think is the more superstitious person…the person whose potential event “B” is negative…or the person whose potential event “B” is positive?

    Like

    • Cool question! You’d think the positive would be remembered more strongly, but as we’re a fearful lot an equally valid case could be made for the negative. I wrote a paper once a while back on sports superstitions, and most of those seemed to be erring on the positive side. After free balling all the way to winning the French Open Andre Agassi never wore underpants ever again in a professional tennis match. So, I guess the stronger urge is to repeat the positive which, by default, defeats the negative outcome. That’s just a guess, but it’d be interesting to get solid numbers on it.

      Like

      • You can refer to Dr Zakir Naiks Book Islam in the light of Modern science.
        I think you know that in the past people used to say that the moon has its own light, now in this context The Holy Quran has used, in Surah Nooh , the word munir which , in Arabic means reflector.

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      • Nice try, but epic fail. Anaxagoras (c. 510 – 428 BCE) was the first to postulate the moon was a refractor of the suns light…. 1,000 years before Mo.

        Sorry, but you’re going to have to do much better than that. And, no, I’m not going to read a book just because you suggested it. You made the wild claim so I’m expecting you can back it up.

        So, over to you…

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      • In the past people used to say that an atom is indivisible but The Quran says in Surah 34 ayat 3 (nothing as big as an atom or SMALLER then that or larger than that shall be able to escap his sight)

        in the past people thought that all the mountain are above the ground and there is nothing underneath it but The Holy Quran says (haven’t we made.. the mountains as nails) I expect you to know that more part of a nail is under the object then the part above it.

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      • Furthermore about seas The Holy Quran says (we have made two waterbodies and although they meet there is a limit which they can not cross) (Surah 55) here it is mentioned that when sweet and salty water meet the sweet water can not cross a specific limit and vice versa. when a river flows into a sea for sometime all the water remains sweet and then comes the limit and water after that is salty.

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      • Ok, I stand corrected. My fingers typed too fast. Now admit you’re wrong about the moon…. the idea was in existence ONE THOUSAND YEARS before Mo and you’re just full of Muslim evangelical bullshit.

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      • Surah 24 ayat 40 mentions (in the deep sea there is darkness over darkness such that if a man spreads ovu his hand he can not see it ). if u have knowledge of history you can tell that the fact that light in a sea is in layers such that the top layer is lightest below that there is a layer which is darker and this continues till in the bottom a person can not even see his hand if he spreads it out. this is a recent scientific discovery probably in the 18th or 19th century.

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      • Look, fella, admit you got the moon completely assbackwards wrong. Go on, admit it…. Your Koran is dead wrong and I just proved it to you.

        Do you have the balls?

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      • Brother you are making your life so difficult here, before he starts quoting the koran he has to prove that his god exists and that Mo isn’t legend.

        To postulate that mo was illiterate whereas hadiths say very well he was married a rich merchant wife who made him the manager of her business and this means, if he existed, he had an opportunity to learn from the Greeks, Syrians and Romans. Arabia claimed to be birth place of Islam wasn’t in isolation.

        The Koran itself is evidence of this borrowing. It has stories of the OT prophets, tells the birth of Jesus and even the angel who is claimed to have revealed the message to Mo is Gabriel who can be traced back to the NT. Why they short of angels?

        He can twist any verse in the koran, as apologists and theologians are wont to do to explain anything he so chooses.

        And when he talks about things such as seas, the koran is composed in the 8th and 9th century C.E, a lot of scientific learning was going on in schools in Rome, Athens and Asia and this could have been by the Caliph Uthman whose reign the koran is composed so no wonder it may not be out rightly outrageous as the christian version.

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      • I don’t think he’s coming back, Noel. I hope he does, though. Please join in if it happens. Sadly, it appears courage (and brains) is as sorely lacking in the Muslim apologist as much as it is in the Christian.

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      • The meeting of two water bodies is not an observational fact. it is true that it is somewhat observable but i challenge you to bring historical proof that people knew that there is actually a frounter betwen the two waters. this is a recent scientific discovery.

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      • please answer to the comment related with the mountains. i repeat The Holy Quran says “and we have made the ground as a floor and the mountains as nails” for your information most of the part of a nail is under the earth. This is a recent scientific discovery that only a small bit of mountain is over the ground and the rest is underneath.

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      • Look Mohammad-man, let me make this perfectly clear: I am not going to entertain any of your verses until you admit Anaxagoras first figured out the moon reflected the suns light ONE THOUSAND YEARS before your prophet raped his first little girl.

        Do that and then we can move forward onto debunking the rest of your poetic gibberish.

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      • The Quran was revealed in the 5th century and if you dont believe in this the origional copy of the Holy Quran still exists in Topkapi Musesum in Istanbul. the book is by the name “The topkapi manuscript” you can find the images on the inttenet. Please tell your friend makagutu to keep quiet if he doesnt know anything.

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      • I will keep quiet.
        So you say it was revealed in the 5th Century and your prophet lived in the 7th Century, to who then was it revealed in the 5th Century?
        Please do read any classical works by the Greeks and Romans on the nature of the universe.
        Do you know what a circular argument is? You are quoting the koran which says it was revealed by god to prove god exists? Tough luck with that but I suggest you listen to a philosophy lecture on argumentation before you proceed. You are getting too deep into the mud here.
        On the question of quran and mountains what sura is it?

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      • They knew two water bodies could meet. There were settlements between Tigris and Euphrates, to say that such a confluence is a recent scientific discovery is rather absurd.
        I know many people don’t like wikipedia, but it is a starting point in looking for other references and here we have something on light refraction.
        And I forgot to ask how you came to the conclusion I don’t know a thing. There is one thing I know, that we can’t know anything for certain.

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      • For a person who believes I know nothing, you really are doing poorly in the knowledge sector. When you say the original is in a museum, original in what sense? If the koran was memorised and got written together almost 100 years after the death of the prophet what do you mean by original?

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      • It was not written 100 years after The Holy Prophets Death. it was written only 4 to 5 years later in the caliphate of Abu Bakr RA. He himself had memorised the Holy Quran and any verse was not written until it was verified by trustable people who were known to be the closest companions of the Holy Prophet PBUH and were considered to be reliable

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      • Pedophiles are those who without the consent of the child get into a relation with them. First Muhammad PBUH formally married Aisha (RAA) secondly Aisha RAA did not object to this marriage, nor did her father, or her mother, or her close relatives object to it so who are you to object on this. Then it is you athiests who believe in rights of LGBT and these kinds of hidious acts, then why is it that you object to a formal marriage.

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      • the matter of fact is that the only difference between consummating a marriage and rape is that marriage is legal and the latter is not. and for your information Aisha was married to Muhammad PBUH. The point is can you find evidence from her later life which can by used that she RAA was unhappy with the marriage, or that even once in her life or afterwards she (God forbid) criticize Muhammad PBUH. well if you do not it means she was happy with the marriage.

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      • Are you seriously saying it’s perfectly fine to rape a woman if she’s your wife? What sort of perverted medieval backwater do you live in? Do you think it’s OK to bash women, too? What about so-called “honour-killings”?

        Now, let’s get something straight: a six year old girl is NOT up for marriage. She’s a SIX YEAR OLD girl! A nine year old girl is NOT up for sex. She’s a NINE YEAR OLD girl! Your Mo was a straight up Pedophile: a sick, perverted rapist of children. And he was also clearly a liar as he didn’t even know that Abraham and Moses weren’t historical characters.

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      • Out of curiosity, how do you explain Mo “not knowing” Abraham and Moses were fictional characters?

        How did he make such a tremendous historical blunder?

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  38. Pingback: This Liebster Award | nuriandnerdpower

  39. “I can disagree on grounds of Scripture and on grounds of early church history. But if I’m hearing you right, you would prefer that I stick to history. I will mostly do this, but to understand the history, what the Scripture actually says is important. Regardless of what Theodosius did, what the Scriptures actually say, and how the early church though, will be important.

    So I hope to get back with you within 1 or 2 week with a full response, once I can give it my full attention! Thanks for your patience.”

    I don’t have any preference as to how you reply. But if you use scripture my response will have you running for your tissue box, I guarantee it. There is nothing in scripture that can be irrefutably backed by history as it pertains to your argument.
    Without being presumptuous you look a bit too young to be skilled in the way of apologetics, and I doubt you could do a better job than William Lane Craig, who is a monumental prat.
    As far as scripture goes, Ehrman is the go to man for this and the complete rubbishing of any notion that Jesus was divine.
    Archaeology you must look to Finklestein and Herzog.

    So bear all of the above in mind before you put ‘pen to paper’ as I promise you if you offer up together some sort of piss-willy philosophical treatise on Christianity and why it must be true based on dickheads like CS Lewis and the inerrant word of your god, and some half arsed interpretation of the gospels then you are going to get short shrift from me, Derek, I assure you .
    For your own sake, tread lightly.

    Like

  40. Pingback: Paranoia, meet theism. Theism, this is paranoia… your biological father. | hdthefog

  41. Funny how I arrived at this particular post of yours last. Beautifully written. May I borrow your hat to doff at your wordsmithiness? Nice observations, you almost convinced me 😉

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  42. great read. to simplify further, its not exclusively paranoia but fear where most theism resides. fear of the unknown, of death, of after life, or simply of irrelevance. as much as superstition is rooted in fear, so do the more evolved forms of theism.

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  43. A well argued essay, John Zande. Made me look back on what I thought about all this as a child. I must’ve been lucky to have non-church-going-tho-proclaimedChurchofEngland-parents. I thought all the bible stories were just stories. Then I studied prehistory and social history and discovered that there were people with much groovier creation yarns, and that many of the bible stories themselves had much earlier roots (e.g. Epic of Gilgamesh).
    And more recently I’ve thought a lot about superstition. There’s perhaps a missing link in the argument between paranoia and superstition. i.e. The superstitions that are often attributed to traditional people, aren’t always superstitions. In other words, people don’t necessarily believe in them in any concrete sense. They are metaphors that are useful tools in the psycho-drama of maintaining social order in communities that do not have ruling parties, dictating prelates, or self-appointed potentates.
    Unfortunately or not, these are quite effective means of social control (cursing someone is a good example in that it is meant to mess with people’s minds and provoke apology, restitution etc) And when societies grew big enough to support a class of non-labouring individuals who often called themselves priests and set themselves above the rest (while still depending on the lower orders for their sustenance and housework) they found such methods of control and power-mongering very useful. Psycho-drama rules – stories with bells and whistles, and much sleight of hand, and huge suspensions of disbelief. It’s also how fiction writers make a living (or in my case, don’t make a living), and how TV companies keep everyone mindlessly glued to soap operas. All part of the same storytelling mechanism. And we keep falling for it… 🙂

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    • “people don’t necessarily believe in them in any concrete sense. They are metaphors that are useful tools in the psycho-drama of maintaining social order in communities that do not have ruling parties, dictating prelates, or self-appointed potentates.”

      Brilliantly said, Tish. I like that a lot.

      Like

  44. Pingback: conspiracy theories, self-fulfilling prophecies and a fat reality check | violetwisp

  45. Pingback: The conversion of Derek C | oogenhand

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