A.C.E. ‘Education’

I was asked by @JonnyScaramanga to write about some of the early christian ‘education’ I received; it seems he and I were both subjected to a similar experience. An article he has written about it can be found here, but before I add my 2 cents worth, here is a little background.

My parents and I don’t talk much these days; in fact I haven’t heard from them since April of 2014. The last time we spoke, (via Messenger) my fundamentalist xian mother told me that she and my sister were thinking of getting matching tattoos. I of course couldn’t resist, so I asked her why xians got tattoos, as Leviticus 19:28 seemed pretty clear about where god stood on this. We then got into a little discussion about the Old Testament vs. the New Testament and her last comment to me was, “I still won’t have this conversation with you” – I guess I don’t get my love of arguing/debating from my mother.

It has been almost 20 years since I left home and my religious indoctrination finally came to an end. In many ways, I still feel its effects and I will probably always have this chip on my shoulder about religion, but it’s a part of who I am and I wouldn’t change it if I could. As I have gotten older, I have forgiven my parents for my overly religious, fundamental upbringing. At various parts of my early life, I had to go to church twice on Sundays + the occasional Friday night youth group, I wasn’t allowed to listen to music for a while (I call those the Footloose years), and I was given the ‘masturbating is a sin and will send you to hell’ speech. That statement alone should qualify as emotional abuse and is not something anyone should say to a child.

Believe it or not, I don’t really hold a grudge for those things; I know my parents genuinely thought that they were doing the right thing, and they definitely did do a lot of other things right. Had that been all I had to contend with, perhaps we might have a better relationship now, but there is one thing that I have come to realise has not been so easy to get over, and that’s what I have been asked to write about.

For those of you that have never heard of ACE (Accelerated Christian Education), it is a curriculum (though I use the term in the loosest possible sense of the word) developed by a husband and wife in Tennessee in 1970, for use in private xian schools.

For 2 years (and then another 6 months of home-schooling) I was stuck in the windowless basement of our church, using textbooks written by people who interpret the bible as unerring literal truth. Picture Ken Ham and Ray Comfort developing learning materials for children; this is what passed for my education. My classroom was just a large open room with about 50-60 students of various ages each sitting around the wall in their own little booths. The teachers were church volunteers with no teaching credentials and little knowledge beyond the bible, though I recall them being pleasant enough. The learning style was independent to a fault; each student read through ‘PACE’ books on our own, and tried to learn what they had to teach. We were in charge of marking our own answers (but were of course on our honour not to cheat!), deciding what we would do/when we would do it, and also how quickly we would progress.

What exactly did they teach though? Here is a sampling of some of the more controversial and ridiculous things that have come to light, no doubt there are far more that have gone unnoticed.

  • The ACE curriculum (in “Biology 1099”) asserts the existence of the Loch Ness monster as fact, declaring it a plesiosaur, and uses this “fact” to disprove the theory of evolution. In July 2013, this reference was removed from new textbooks published in Europe
  • Textbooks state that abortion is wrong, evolution is a lie, and homosexuals choose to be gay. They teach that “God wants wives to submit to their husbands”
  • The ACE curriculum (in “Science 1096”) asserts that solar fusion is a myth, describing it as “an invention of evolution scientists
  • Of the United States, the curriculum says “Because of the faith of the early citizens of the United States and because of the Biblical foundation of its government and laws, God blessed the United States; and it became the strongest and most prosperous nation on Earth

While I can’t say that I remember the above examples, I do recall learning about the origins of the universe as recounted in the Genesis story, including Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. I also distinctly remember a chapter about Noah’s Ark and the great flood. Did I learn this in a religious studies book? No, I learned all these fanciful tales in my science books. Creationism and a literal interpretation of the bible was portrayed to me as the obvious and only explanation for all the things around me. I’d like to say that at the age of 10 I rejected what I was taught and sought my own answers…but I was just a kid (and in the mid eighties, there was no Google or Wikipedia for me to use) and I believed what I was told.

At home, it was the same; my parents told me it was true, and my teachers (recall those people with no teaching credentials) had told me it was true, why would I question it? Why would any 9 year old question his or her role models? I honestly can’t recall when I started to reject the utter foolishness that had been taught to me, but fortunately I did, and since then I have had a love for learning that I hope I never lose. Perhaps subconsciously I’m still trying to make up for lost time?

So that is a little bit about what it is like for some of the unlucky children who are brought up in a very xian household. Thankfully I know that this is not the norm, and I am sure a large number of children with xian parents receive exactly the type of education that everyone should be entitled to. Sadly, this is not the case for everyone, and it wasn’t the case for me.

When I first started to write this, I wasn’t quite sure why I was doing it. Was it just to share my experience, did I hope it could actually help someone, or was it perhaps to find others who had gone through something similar. As I wrote and revised, the real reason I was doing it came to me: the only people in the world that really need to know my thoughts about my experience are my parents… so this is for you Mom & Dad; some insight into what your religion has done to me.


“The Folly of Atheism”


Candid Apologetics, I’m pretty sure I have never seen so many errors in the introduction of anything I’ve ever read. Each and every sentence in the first 2 paragraphs contains a point that needed addressing. If your intention was to induce mass head-shaking and seas of face-palming, I would say mission très accomplished. However, if the intention had been to deconstruct atheism and present a salient argument for christianity, then you have failed on a scale not seen since Crystal Pepsi. With so many fallacies and misrepresentations in the introduction alone, it would be virtually pointless to take apart the rest of the posting. If you have some time and brain cells to spare, the article in its entirety and a few other gems can be found on their website.

Atheism is perhaps the most difficult worldview1 to defend. This is because atheism is full of contradictions2. Points are often overlooked3. In their effort to avoid admitting the existence of God, atheists often put themselves in place of God4. Atheism is a very inconsistent belief system5. In this post, I will address one of those inconsistencies.

Atheism is the belief system that believes God does not exist6. This attempt fails because, well, no atheist can prove that God doesn’t exist7!! They can only hope (which is another inconsistency) and make intellectual excuses8. In the end, the atheist ends up in a contradiction between the way he or she lives and what he or she says9. This is one of the biggest problems for atheists10.

1] Atheism is not a worldview; it is the lack of belief in the existence of gods. Lacking a belief in your god no more constitutes a worldview than does your lack of belief in Ganesh. You, like many other ill-informed christians, seem to be conflating atheism, secularism, and humanism. In actuality only the latter constitutes a worldview and no amount of word-play or twisting of logic could possibly qualify atheism as such.

2] I would love to hear how you can attribute any contradiction(s) to the notion of not believing in a god due to a complete and total lack of credible evidence. By definition, a contradiction needs to involve more than one point, whereas atheism has only one point.

3] What exactly is overlooked? Atheists don’t believe in gods because no one has ever shown that any exist, but if someone demonstrates credible evidence, we will revise our stance. Atheism is really quite simple, but you attribute far more to it than is actually the case.

4] I would love for you to show an example of an atheist whom you feel has put themselves in place of your, or any god for that matter; I’m not even sure what you mean by this to be honest. Are atheists trying to get people to blindly worship them, asking for 10% of their earnings, demanding they chop off the end of their penis, dictating what not to eat or drink, or who they can love?

5] sigh. Do you even know the actual meanings of the words that you are using? You seem to be assigning your own meaning to an awful lot of words. It is impossible for the lack of belief in gods to be a belief system. Were that the case, you would have belief system for each of the thousands of gods that you don’t believe in. As for inconsistencies, no clever (or likely not so clever) manipulation of words can demonstrate any inconsistencies in the lack of belief in gods.

6] It amazes (no, saddens & irritates) me how many theists don’t even know what atheism means. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve had to explain this to a christian: atheism is NOT the belief that gods do not exist, it is the lack of belief that gods exist. This is not just semantics, there is a distinct difference between the two. Rather than come up with my own analogy (I’ve had a long day) I googled it and found one I quite liked (credit to @DangerousTalk for the article I found it in)

I don’t know if there is a purple house on Oak Street, so I might lack the belief that there is. That doesn’t mean that I disbelieve that there is a purple house on Oak Street necessarily, but it could mean that too. However, if someone showed me a picture of a purple house on Oak Street, then I would have knowledge of the purple house and would almost certainly believe that there is in fact a purple house on Oak Street. By that same reasoning, if I said that I don’t have any reason to believe that there is a purple house on Oak Street, that doesn’t mean that I believe that there is no purple house on Oak Street. It also doesn’t mean that I believe there must be a blue house on Oak. In other words, atheism is a lack of belief in a deity, but it is not a disbelief in a deity necessarily and it is not necessarily a belief in something else either. It can be, but that is not a requirement of the set of people who lack the belief.

7] It was at this point that I realised you were new to this. Barring logical contradictions such as a married bachelor, or a 4-sided triangle, one cannot say with 100% certainty that something does not exist. It is for this very reason that you cannot prove that unicorns, elves, Kali, or Zeus do not exist. Attempting to use this puerile argument has highlighted your inability to think critically. The expression ‘jumped the shark’ initially popped into my head as I read that point, but I then realised that would would have given far too much credit to the arguments that had preceded it.

8] I feel like I keep repeating myself; what intellectual excuse could one have for lacking belief in something for which no credible evidence has been shown? Only believing in things for which there is evidence is not an excuse, it is rational. Do you not also weigh evidence when deciding if something should be believed in? It is those of you engaged in apologetics that make use of intellectual excuses, not those of us who do not believe.

9] Again, if you actually understood what atheism was, you’d realise how foolish this point is. The only thing that could contradict what an atheist says (‘I don’t believe in gods’) is if they acted as if they actually did believe in gods; have you seen many that do this? I know I haven’t.

10] The only problem for atheists is that it is 2014 and somehow half the planet still believes in magic and allows that belief to affect the lives of others. THAT is our problem.

So there it is, 10 points in 2 paragraphs. I really couldn’t be bothered to look any further into this posting due to its inauspicious introduction. They say not to judge a book by its covers, but I think in this case, it was the prudent thing to do. This article even made Jesus face-palm.


Angry Atheist or Atheist Who is Angry?

Before I had even had my first cup of coffee yesterday, some little pissant Muslim had called me an ‘angry atheist’ in response to the #CLIsUsingQuraanInHerSong foolishness. I turned it around and reminded him that it was, in fact, Muslims who were yet again angry for no legitimate reason. The truth was though, he was right. I was angry about people capitulating and allowing religion to dictate what we can and cannot do. It’s okay to be angry that religious people seem to think they are within their rights to make demands of the world around them.

I finally got a cup of coffee in, and then I’m called a ‘butthurt atheist’ in response to a tweet I made about Muslim outrage about music videos, versus the complete lack of outrage about child-marriage. I was informed that child-marriage has nothing to do with Islam, and is “just weird cultures in certain countries”.

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Though I wasn’t ‘butthurt’, I was once again angry; needless to say, the thought of child-marriage sickens me. It’s okay to be angry about this abhorrent practice.

There is nothing wrong with being angry for the right reasons.

Islam imposing its will on the rest of the world should make you angry. Child-marriage should make you angry. Opposition to marriage equality should make you angry. Throwing acid in someone’s face should make you angry. An organisation that protects child-rapists should make you angry. Telling people that condoms are a sin should make you angry. Schools trying to teach ‘Intelligent Design’ as if it were science should make you angry. I could go on and on, but I am sure you get the point.

I’m not an angry atheist, I am a rational person who is angry for legitimate reasons; I just happen to be an atheist and a lot (but not all) of those reasons are related to religion. This righteous indignation however, is what keeps people from becoming complacent, it’s what fuels people’s desire to change things and make the world a better place. So, be angry when it is warranted, but try to do something with that anger; make a difference.


I’m doing the Step Up for MS Event on May 4th, 2014. It entails running up 53 flights of stairs, which is 1,103 steps. That didn’t seem like enough of a challenge, so I decided to do the double event: go up once, wait an hour, repeat. Apart from surviving with my legs intact, I’d also like to raise at least $1,000 for this valuable cause. If you can donate even a little bit, it would be most appreciated, and you’ll get a warm fuzzy feeling inside knowing that you are helping people…but without the screaming pain in your legs 🙂

For every $5 you donate, you get a chance to win one of the tshirts (new of course!) pictured below. Once you have donated, just send an email to perth.atheist@gmail.com and I’ll add your name to the draw. The tshirts are all size small (but American small, which seems to be a medium everywhere else) and were purchased from cafepress.com.au.

photo1Thanks in advance for your support, wish me luck…or pray for me 😉

Hell is a 4-Sided Triangle


Earlier today a friend of mine (@AtheistPT) shared this pic on Facebook and asked me to look at a comment that had been left. I was already irritated after having listening to 15 minutes of Ken Ham’s drivel in the debate versus Bill Nye, so I skimmed through it with a furrowed brow and then hastily fired off the first few things that came to mind. While the sign appears to be fake, it’s really not that far from believable. The sign isn’t what I wanted to address, but rather the comment that was left in response to it.

Here is the comment, copied and pasted exactly as is:

people may not believe in hell-but any rational person must acknowledge the reality of death-it is inevitable for all of us to one day face death -and according to the bible, the reason for death is sin, which every single one of us has committed in one way or another- sin is breaking Gods laws which are written on our hearts-not silly things like surfing and skateboarding-but actual sins like hatred, lying, pride, selfishness etc -and we KNOW when we lie, steal, cheat, blaspheme etc that it is wrong, because we were made with a conscience that tells us it’s wrong.Any person who thinks they could stand before a Holy and perfectly righteous God on the basis of their own goodness, is utterly decieved .God does not weigh up our good works against our bad, and let us into heaven if we’ve been mostly good-He also doesn’t compare us to other people and say “well at least they’re not Hitler…” no Gods standard is utter perfection, as described in the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17,Deuteronomy 5:1-21)
Anyone who breaks even one of Gods holy commandments, is guilty of breaking them all, and that us all of us, no matter how good we may think we are in our own eyes.-

The Good news, however is that God came to us in the person of Jesus Christ, lived a perfect and sinless life-and allowed Himself to be brutally executed, not for His own sins-but for ours, yours and mine -Jesus took on the death and sin of mankind, so that in turn He could give us eternal life, and His perfect righteousness-Jesus was crucified for claiming to be the Son of God, and proved it by raising from the dead 3 days later, and appearing to hundreds of witnesses, who have passed this good news into others,who have been taking this good news to the ends of the earth for the past 2000 years-
So in conclussion, NONE of us no matter who we are, surfer, skater, fornicator,or pope can stand before a perfect and Holy God on the basis of our own faulty good works-BUT if we will repent towards God, that is to say sorry to Him for living our life defiantly set on doing things our own way-apologize to Him for breaking His commandments and determine to stop and do things right- abandon our own righteousness and accept the free gift of His righteousness through faith-turn our life around, putting our faith not in our own goodness, but in the person of Jesus Christ and in what He has done on our behalf-then God will pardon and wash away all of our sins (through baptism in water) give us new life, filled with His Holy Spirit, who will guide us,and teach us Gods ways, and help us to keep Gods Holy commandments perfectly , His way, not our own way.
and if we stumble and fall (which we all do), He will never leave us, or forsake us, but rather lead us to eternal life with Him.

and my initial reply:

Steve, what a pile of bullshit. Hell is a twisted story used to scare the naive and gullible; it’s 2014, time to lose the invisible friend. You’re only a xian b/c you were born in a country where that was the dominant religion. If you had been born in India, Saudi Arabia, or Israel you’d be banging on about another god/version of god and a different ‘holy’ book. There is exactly zero proof that any of the approximately 3,000 gods we’ve created over the past few thousand years exist, but people like you go on blindly believing and calling your faith a virtue.
That’s the short version, I’ll dismantle the rest of your ‘points’ later.

Oh my Steve. Much like Toma’s article, there is so much gibberish in that comment that I wasn’t even sure I was going be able to fit my response into one reasonably-sized post. I had initially intended to deconstruct your comment and address each assumption and logical fallacy, but it just was not feasible; you simply made too many and I had neither the time nor the inclination to address them all. Instead I am just going to show you why Hell does not exist.

That bears repeating: Hell does not exist. It is of course within the realm of possibility that somewhere in this infinitely vast universe that we live in, there is a place that somewhat resembles what some xians believe Hell would be like, but for the sake of this discussion, I am referring to the only xian notion of Hell as it is described in the bible. I realise that by claiming to know this for a fact, I have shifted the burden of proof to myself and it falls to me to back that up, and that is exactly what I intend to do.

As you may or not be aware, it is not generally possible to disprove the existence of something. If I make the claim that an invisible unicorn lives in my garden, there is no way that you can categorically disprove its existence. Of course if I did make that claim, the burden of proof would be on me and I would have to provide you with reasonable evidence if I expected you to give my claim any credence. Allow me a small digression to say that the same must be said about your claims of a god; no believer of any religion has ever been able to show any reasonable and/or credible evidence to  substantiate their claim of a deity. Burden of proof is another topic entirely, and not one I intend to address here.

You may now be asking how I can claim to know for a fact that Hell does not exist (making me a gnostic ahellist I suppose). One can in fact disprove the existence of something if it can be shown to contain a logical contradiction. Think 4-sided triangle or a married bachelor. This is where disproving Hell becomes quite simple: both the existence of Hell and the fact that it would have been created by your god, very clearly contradict the notion of an all-loving god, and no amount of pleading, explanations, or clever (or not so clever) wordplay will change that.

Your bible has a lot to say about god and love. There are a number of verses that compare his relationship with us to that of a father and his children. Xians don’t seem to be bothered that this is a single-parent family though, and if you include jesus, we all have 2 Dads! I John 3:1 states that “…we should be called children of God! And that is what we are…” while Psalm 103:13 tells us “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;” Let us ignore for the moment the fact that fear should have nothing to do with love (fear ≠ love), and focus only on the aforementioned contradiction. If we accept the analogy of a father’s love for his children, then we must question what kind of parent would allow their child to suffer eternal torment. Xians are quick to respond with ‘he only punishes those who do not accept him/follow him/love him’ but that is really no kind of love at all, and at best, a pathetic attempt to reconcile ideas which obviously contradict each other. Do parents love their children only if they do what they are told? I’d say not; that is certainly not unconditional love.

Hell is eternal torment; a macabre, ghoulish world of demons, fire, torture, and unadulterated misery. There is no way that an all-loving god could allow his children to spend eternity suffering in this way. One simply cannot resolve the contradiction of an all-loving god who allows this sort of suffering. Those two ideas oppose each other at their core.

I’m not sure if you have children of your own Steve, but I’ll assume that you at least know some children or are aware of the existence of small people we refer to as children. Just for a moment, I want you to think of those children in agony; true excruciating pain. Picture their screams, the anguish, the pleading, the tears, the looks of horror on their faces – truly picture it. Imagine evisceration, disembowelment, burning, cutting, slicing, tearing, poking, splitting, and biting. Think of blood, bone, skin, teeth, and organs. I pictured it for just a few seconds as vividly as I could and it made me feel awful and I don’t even have children. I really can’t imagine how it must feel for someone to think of their own children in this way; I suspect it would be the worst thing a parent could ever experience. I ask again, how could an all-loving god exist through eternity knowing that was happening to his children? He/she/it couldn’t, so either Hell does not exist, or your god is not actually all-loving. In fact, both are true as your god almost surely doesn’t exist, but that is also another post unto itself.

If you can resolve this glaringly obvious contradiction Steve, I’d be more than happy to read it.

In conclusion, let me say to all surfers, skateboarders, musicians, artists, vegetarians, occupiers, activists, addicts, and fornicators: you’re not going to Hell so don’t worry. Be a good person just because you share this planet with other people, and not out of fear of eternal damnation.


Why I Don’t Respect Your Beliefs

1. something believed; an opinion or conviction: a belief that the earth is flat.
2. confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof: a statement unworthy of belief.
3. confidence; faith; trust: a child’s belief in his parents.
4. a religious tenet or tenets; religious creed or faith: the Christian belief.

No, I will not even entertain the notion of respecting your beliefs

When I first filled out my Twitter bio, I didn’t think too much about that statement. I just wanted something that summarised some of my thoughts toward religion. Since then, a number of theists have commented on it, using words to describe me, like ‘intolerant’ ‘bigot’ & ‘handsome’. What they have all failed to realise is that there is no reason a belief should be entitled to any modicum of respect. What is a belief after all? It’s nothing more than an idea held by someone. Should ideas not be judged on their own merit and not merely accepted and respected just because a large number of people happen to hold them? I might believe that the earth is flat, but should you have to respect that belief? Obviously not, and you would more than likely challenge and ridicule that belief. If I attempt to extend my belief beyond the sphere of my own life, this belief of mine has now become your issue.


Outside an Orwellian dystopia, people are free to believe whatever they choose. The freedom to hold a belief however, does not entitle that belief to any respect. While they are extreme examples, the Nazis and the KKK clearly illustrate my point: both had/have very strong beliefs (which may actually be rooted in religion, but that is a topic unto itself). While the small number of repugnant individuals who still share those beliefs might disagree, it’s safe to say that the vast majority of people today would accord those beliefs exactly zero respect. The holder of a belief should be respected if that respect is in fact earned/deserved, people’s right to hold a belief should also be respected, but the belief itself exists only in the mind of the person or people that hold it and thus is not entitled to any respect.

This is why I won’t even entertain the notion of respecting anyone’s beliefs.

“Why am I so angry? It’s called new-atheism” – my response to Toma Part II

First of all, I’d like to thank all those who read Part 1 of my reply to Toma and your kind words on Twitter.

Atheism has become about the freedom to be morally flexible.

I wish I could say I was surprised that I needed to explain that morality doesn’t come from a storybook, but sadly, that’s not the case. I’ve been mulling over in my head for the past couple of days exactly how I would address this point; it seems obvious to anyone that has given it even the most cursory examination. There are a number of ways in which this could be approached, but as the person to whom I am responding is a christian, I thought the most salient method would be to examine what the Bible tells us about how we are to act in various situations. Forgive me if this comes across awkward in any way; discussions of morality are neither my forte nor a particular area of interest for me.

“Atheism has become about the freedom to be morally flexible.” Based on that statement, I can reasonably assume that you feel theism (christianity in your case) is the only framework by which morality can be determined, so without that framework, atheists are amoral/immoral, or ‘morally flexible’ as you put it.

The previous assumption being true, it also seems logical to think that you believe the ‘word of god’ i.e. the bible, to be the source of our morality. Please correct me if either of these assumptions are incorrect. An examination of the bible should then yield a treasure trove of advice on how to live a moral life. While you might immediately be thinking ‘cherry-picking’, you should be aware that it is those who claim the bible as a source of morality who are guilty of this, and not I. Were the bible an appropriate means by which to derive morality, should we not expect it to be free from ambiguous and/or conflicting ideas? The fact that I can easily find examples to demonstrate my points should immediately call into question the notion that the bible should be the source of our morality. Christians have to either follow the bible to the letter (and some fundamentalists attempt to do this) or pick and choose which aspects of it they will follow, and which ones they will ignore.

In order to illustrate this, allow me to pose a number of questions to you Toma, and we’ll look at the bible’s answers to them. If you consider yourself to be a moral person, and one who has derived said morality from the bible, then your answers should be the same as the bible, right? Let’s see.

1] What should be done about those who do not honour their parents?

According to Matthew 15:4 the answer is quite simple: they should be put to death.

If you don’t think death is an appropriate punishment for failing to honour one’s parents, then you are cherry-picking.

2] Should women be permitted to speak in church?

I Corinthians 14:34 makes it quite clear that no, they should not. The following verse adds: “for it is shameful/a shame/disgraceful/improper (there are so many translations!) for a woman to speak in church. Similar verses in I Timothy 2:11-14 tell us that women should always be silent and forbidden from teaching or using authority over a man.

If you have ever allowed a woman to speak in church, teach you, or exert any authority over you, then you are cherry-picking.

3] What should be done if a man is caught raping a woman who is not engaged?

Deuteronomy 22:28-29 lists 3 things: her father must be paid, the rapist must marry the victim, and a divorce is not be permitted.

If you don’t consider financial compensation paid to the father and a never-ending marriage to be an acceptable punishment for raping a woman who is not engaged, then you are cherry-picking.

4] How should homosexuals be punished?

That’s easy; according to Leviticus 20:13 they should be killed.

If you don’t think homosexuals should be killed, then you are cherry-picking.

5] Are there any other people who should be put to death?

Why yes, yes there are. Here is just a sampling: sorceresses, mediums, those who strike their parents, those who curse their parents, adulterers, a priest’s daughter who fornicates, followers of other religions, nonbelievers, false prophets, women who aren’t virgins on their wedding night, blasphemers, anyone who approaches the Tabernacle, people who work on the Sabbath, children who call a bald man ‘bald’, sons of sinners, the list goes on and on (and was taken from here)

If you don’t think that all of the above deserve death, then you are cherry picking.

With just those handful of examples, it is obvious that the average christian is not following the bible to determine their morality; they pick the parts that fit within a modern worldview. As the bible provides both moral and immoral actions, it simply can’t be trusted as a source of morality. That being the case, how do christians decide which rules to follow and which ought to be ignored?

It’s quite simple actually: empathy. Our notions of what is right and wrong are not derived from ancient texts; they come from empathy. Do you honestly think that before the holy texts were written, people had no sense of morality? I’m sure that we could agree that different periods of our history contained notions of morality that differ greatly from those we now possess. That however, is not to say that people had no concept of morality prior to the bible, quran, etc. or that people have been more moral since these books came into being.

Rats, dogs, elephants, and many other animals have been shown to display empathy; this is by no means a uniquely human trait. World-renowned primatologist Frans de Waal has done a great deal of research on primate social behaviour, showing our primate ‘cousins’ sense of empathy is very similar to our own. In ‘The Evolution of Empathy‘ he suggests our sense of empathy has been advantageous throughout our evolution and how it has led to morality.

It’s not that religion and culture don’t have a role to play, but the building blocks of morality clearly predate humanity. We recognize them in our primate relatives, with empathy being most conspicuous in the bonobo ape and reciprocity in the chimpanzee. Moral rules tell us when and how to apply our empathic tendencies, but the tendencies themselves have been in existence since time immemorial.

(Thought you might like the first part of that Tomo; de Waal seems to have drawn criticism from PZ Myers and AC Grayling over comments like that.)

Christians often ask what stops atheists from doing whatever they like, if they do not have the bible to guide them. They ask this question in all seriousness, without realising what it actually means about their own behaviour. The only reason you don’t rape and kill is because some passages in the bible tell you not to? That’s a terrifying thought; christians desire to rape and kill is only held at bay by a book. Before you became a christian, did you have a strong desire to rape and kill that was only repressed once you read the bible? If that is not true, then why would you assume that atheists are any different?

Penn Jillette summarises it nicely:

The question I get asked by religious people all the time is, without God, what’s to stop me from raping all I want? And my answer is: I do rape all I want. And the amount I want is zero. And I do murder all I want, and the amount I want is zero. The fact that these people think that if they didn’t have this person watching over them that they would go on killing, raping rampages is the most self-damning thing I can imagine.

The notion that atheists or theists (or anyone for that matter) need a book to tell them how to interact with people is laughable. Christians need to stop assuming a position of moral superiority because they’ve read a collection of stories from antiquity, especially considering the ‘morality’ in those stories is not something one should aspire to. As I’ve explained, most reasonable christians already pick and choose what parts of the bible they follow, indicating they must have another way by which they determine what actions are moral. That being the case, why bother pretending the bible is a source for morality?

As I stated earlier, discussions of morality are neither my forte nor an area of strong interest; I have likely spent too much time on certain points, while glossing over others that should have been expanded upon. Regardless, I hope I’ve gotten across the gist of what I wanted to say. Stay tuned for Part III.

“Why am I so angry? It’s called new-atheism” – my response to Toma Part I

I generally prefer to dispense my thoughts in person or in 140 character chunks, but after having just been informed today by @MrOzAtheist of a mention in a blog posting (dated June 9, 2013), I felt compelled to respond. I even set up this fancy new domain because that’s just how I roll (do people still say that?).

The aforementioned post by @TomaHaiku can be found here. I thought for the sake of ease (mine, not the reader’s), I would dissect statements in Toma’s article and respond to some of the ones I took umbrage with. Actually, umbrage may be a poor choice of words; I’m not in the least bit offended by anything he wrote, I just feel the need to point out the numerous erroneous and fallacious statements he made. There are so many in fact, that I will have to split this into a number of parts; here’s the first installment.

There was a time that atheism simply meant you didn’t believe in God. Putting five atheists in a room together meant the only thing they were certain to have in common was their non-belief in a deity.

1] I think I’ll defer to the dictionary on this one:

disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.
late 16th century: from French athéisme, from Greek atheos, from a- ‘without’ + theos ‘god’

Your choice of words ‘there was a time’ would seem to indicate that you think this definition has changed; however the dictionary would indicate otherwise. The etymology of the word should be a clue, and you can clearly see that it translates to without god.

The second part of that statement is actually correct, though you have chosen the past simple, when you should have used the present simple (meant vs. means). If you put 5 atheists in a room, the only thing you can guarantee they will have in common is their lack of belief in any deities. It seems as though you might be creating your own meaning for ‘atheism’ and perhaps amalgamating notions of humanism and secularism…perhaps you could clarify this? I made a handy little pie chart for people who didn’t seem to be able to grasp exactly what atheism encompasses:


With the rise of new-atheists and new-atheist leaders such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the late and great Christopher Hitchens,  atheism has come to take on a more universal, cult-like existence.

2] New-atheists? I’m afraid I might have to request clarification from you on this one as well Toma. If you refer back to the previous point, I explained that the definition of atheism hasn’t changed, ergo there is no such thing as ‘new-atheists’. Let me give you an example: when I was a child, I didn’t believe in vampires (I suppose that made me an avampirist). As an adult, my non-belief in vampires continues. There really is no way in which my non-belief has changed, i.e. there is no new way in which I don’t believe in vampires now. Make sense? The same is of course true for my lack of belief in gods.

I’ve been an atheist for the better part of 20 years now; it started well before I had even heard of Dawkins, Harris, or Hitchens. It was something I came to on my own, and by comparing atheism to a cult you demonstrate once again that you like to assign your own meanings to words. Allow me to refer to the dictionary once again:

a system of religious veneration and devotion directed towards a particular figure or object.

The fact that a great many people have read the works of these fine authors speaks to the quality of the works they have produced, it hardly qualifies them as ‘cult-leaders’. This is merely a case you playing fast and loose with the definition of words and molding them to suit your points. I find this particular form of intellectual dishonesty to be especially distasteful. As for an actual example of a cult leader as per the dictionary definition, perhaps you remember David Koresh? Personally, I think the only difference between a religion and a cult is tax-free status.

New-atheists today share an extreme dislike of all religion.

3] Allow me to introduce you to possibly a new word: anti-theism. You have thus far been using the word atheist or ‘new-atheist’, when anti-theist would have been more accurate. Again, it is the prefix that defines the word. One of meanings of ‘anti-‘ is against, or hostile to. Do you see how that is far more accurate than ‘a-‘ meaning without? This isn’t a petty case of arguing semantics; your use of the words is either incorrect by choice or through ignorance.

By changing your statement to the more accurate ‘anti-theists today share an extreme dislike of all religions’ I’d agree with you. Correct my assumption if necessary, but I expect that you are against religions apart from your own. How would you feel if your children were led in a prayer to Allah at the beginning of each school day? Would this foster any feelings of hostility in you Toma? I doubt I’d be wrong in assuming it would. In my interactions with various theists over the years, it has become quite apparent to me that they share no love for those who follow the ‘wrong religion and worship the wrong god(s). Perhaps you don’t fit into this category, please tell me if that is indeed the case.

It’s no longer enough to simply argue that God does not exist; it is now essential to argue that religion is evil, and that the religious are fools and hypocrites.

I’m impressed that you managed to fit so much ‘wrong’ into one well-articulated sentence. My fingers ache just thinking about how much I am going to have to type to correct it. Sigh.

If you recall the definition I have already given for atheism, it states a lack of belief in a god/gods. That is of course not the same as saying ‘gods do not exist’. The difference is subtle, but very important. As an atheist, due to a complete and total lack of credible evidence, I do not believe in any god. For me to state that god does not exist includes a claim of knowledge; making me a gnostic atheist. I am in fact, an agnostic atheist, in that I realise it is impossible to truly know whether a supernatural deity exists somewhere in the cosmos. That being said, just because I can’t categorically disprove the existence of said deity, is no reason to believe and thus, I don’t. I can only speak for myself, I would never want to be accused of speaking for all atheists (though you seem to lump us all together as one), but I personally don’t argue that god doesn’t exist. I’ll happily state my opinion or belief on the topic, but that is not the same as saying I know that your god does not exist.

As one who claims to have knowledge that a god (God as you xians so creatively call him) exists, you are a gnostic theist. It is not just that you claim to know a god exists, you claim to know which one it is; a bold claim indeed! The burden of proof is on you, the claim is yours.

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As for ‘it is now essential to argue that religion is evil’, how can anything else be essential to my not believing in a god. The only thing essential to atheism is a continued lack of belief in gods. Do you see how your misuse of the terminology adversely affects practically everything you’ve written? Let’s again attribute this statement to anti-theism. As far religion being evil, I could provide thousands of examples, but I’m being 100% honest when I say I really can’t be bothered. One could easily fill entire Ikea wall units with books detailing the evils of religion, but that sounds like a ridiculous amount of effort doesn’t it? Instead, here are 8 examples of the atrocities of religions that someone else has compiled (full article here)

1] Buddhist Burma
2] Thuggee Murders
3] Mountain Meadows Massacre
4] The Inquisition
5] The Witch Hunts
6] Roman Persecution of Christians
7] Aztec Human Sacrifice
8] Islamic Jihads

And let’s not forget the truly abhorrent, disgusting cover-up of child rape that the Catholic church has carried out over the past half-century. How truly evil it is to steal the innocence of children in such a monstrous way.

While some people (myself included) do say that theists are fools, what we should be saying is that your beliefs are foolish. That being said, it can be hard to separate the belief from the believer when one hears stories of talking animals, Noah’s Ark, saints rising from their graves, the ridiculous story of creation…I could go on and on and on. What am I to make of a person who truly believes that Noah and his family not only built a boat large enough to accommodate a breeding pair of each species of animal, but also managed to collect them all (even the marsupials in Australia….an island), keep them alive for 40 days and nights, then somehow return them each to the habitat from whence they came? How did the animals manage to eat after they left the ark? The carnivores wouldn’t have been able to eat any of the animals from the ark, lest they disappear forever, while the herbivores would have had no vegetation to eat. That’s completely ignoring the aquatic life that would have perished when the flood-waters changed the salinity levels of the oceans and bodies of freshwater. This is another topic in which I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. An adult believing this fairytale in 2014 may well be called a fool, and deservedly so.

Oh my. This was just 3 tiny paragraphs from your posting; there are still 5 more :/ Stay tuned for parts 2 & 3.

Kevin (aka @perth_atheist)