Unapologetics : a Facebook group for honest discussion

This is a brief post to let readers know that over the holiday period a new Facebook group appeared where believers and non alike are having robust discussion on matters of faith.

The blurb says:

Unapologetics is an open market place for ideas. We want to be able to discuss religion, apologetics, theism, doubts, the Bible, whatever, in a friendly but open manner without anybody having to feel like a troll. Every worldview is equally welcome. So let’s keep it respectful, but be prepared to have your position dissected. En Garde!

The group is a closed group so you will need to request to join. The reason is so that posts to the group do not get plastered over your Facebook feed for your sensitive friends to read.

If this is something that interests you the link should be below.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1594225307474519/

Oh and Happy New Year!

Mis-quoting others, atheists being dicks

One of the joys of the internet is the ability to check out and spread humorous quotes of famous people that backup your philosophical position.

Which probably explains why the following quote, supposedly of Mark Twain, has been doing the rounds for some time.

Religion was invented when the first con man met the first fool.

When the above quote appeared on my Facebook feed some weeks ago I decided to check it out. I don’t like to just take pithy quotes on face value and in today’s age of easily assimilated and faked images it is so easy to attribute anything to anyone.

There are many places that repeat the quote, but only a few that show a history of the quote, among them is this one: http://www.zebrafactcheck.com/neer-the-twain-did-speak-it/

As can be seen, the quote is of dubious attribution.

One of the reasons I wanted to check the quote out is that I don’t consider it particularly accurate. The history of religion is very complex and no one who studies it long enough will actually claim the quote as being an accurate representation of that history.

The quote is the sort of thing that I would laugh at with friends over a beer if repeated down the pub, but would never take seriously. However, sticking it on Facebook makes it open to challenge. So having found that it wasn’t a valid attribution I commented to that effect and corrected the poster.

Now this particular individual is rather outspoken and like to say things that shock and will argue them until the other party gives up. Some of his posts and comments are so abrasive that my wife has blocked his comments from showing on her feed. He certainly isn’t the type to admit a mistake easily, so I wasn’t particularly surprised when his response to my correction was to reply that whoever said it, it was effing funny.

It is this kind of atheist that, sadly, gives the rest of us a bad name and it is this kind of mentality that, also sadly, many people of a religious persuasion imagine when they think of atheists. I know that is the sort of person I thought most atheists were because that is what I had been warned about many times growing up.

The truth of course, is that this is not characteristic of most atheists, it is simply that this is the kind of atheist that gets noticed the most.

 

Inundated with facebook traffic

Well not really, but my blog stats are humble enough that a couple of dozen incoming links in a single day from facebook stand out.

They are all coming into my post on Adam and Eve (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/the-problem-of-adam-and-eve/).

Frustratingly WordPress doesn’t record what facebook page they links came from, only that they came from facebook. A search around failed to bring up any hint and none of the visitors felt the need to comment so the brief feeling of facebook love and popularity waned rapidly.

 

Its all gone to Shit

** warning, this post contains expletives **

I’ve blogged recently about some of the issues facing our current church. First there was (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/dark-clouds-looming/) and then there was (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2012/12/24/a-wonderful-positive-conclusion/).

Well, now there has been a breakaway group that has left the church and started holding Sunday afternoon meetings in another location; without the blessing of the parent church. Worse than that, the protagonists write secretly to people that they would hope to get support from and invited them to attend.

Quite frankly, I am incensed and thoroughly pissed off over it. It has caused hurt and upset in my household and also for my friend, the pastor.

One of the defecting couples is consists of a very immature wife and very easily led husband, the husband being the subject of the later part of this post (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2012/06/18/on-women-in-the-church/). It doesn’t help that the ring leader of this group is the staunch creationist responsible for this (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/creationism-on-my-doorstep/).

 

Righteous Anger

You know when you’re so angry that you can’t think about anything else and you really want to say something hurtful to the source of that anger? Well that was me most of last Sunday.

My chance came when the wife mentioned above put a Facebook comment about how good God was. My wife practically begged me not to do anything, saying she didn’t want or need me fighting her battles. For me it’s more than just that, there is an horrible injustice going on here and bitter people with an agenda are actively causing pain through selfish motives. It’s wrong and why can’t I call out bullshit when I see it?

So I fought my urges to unleash both barrels and simply asked if she was aware that people were hurting and where did she see god’s goodness in that? Quickly she came back with an apology for causing offense, said she was aware and was sad and simply wanted to point out that god was good.

Sad!

She’s fucking sad!!!!

Does the stupid thing and her cohorts know that’s it’s the direct result of their actions that have created this? Being sad doesn’t cut it. God didn’t create this situation and God isn’t fixing it. People did this, bitter, selfish, insipid people. People who profess faith and the love of god did this. Being sad is not fucking good enough.

So I fought back what I wanted to say and twenty minutes later came back to find her comment deleted. I hope she felt suitably chastised, though I suspect not guilty enough to do anything positive.

I’m still angry, but I feel a little better. I will also be more cautious about posting on this subject from now on as its an on-going situation. Update may have to wait until its over and the dust has settled.

Creationist Nonsense: Science assumes no God

Still on the subject of Ken Ham’s creationism (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/conspiracy-against-creationism-and-ken-hams-intollerance/) and his Facebook response; one of Ken’s followers made a comment that I wish to address. Hopefully this will be the last of my posts on this particular episode, for now at least.

On Ken’s Facebook (yes, I did stalk Ken’s Facebook profile to see what was being said about my blog posting) page a commenter made the following remark.

 

So, wait… he claims that scientists don’t begin with the assumption that there is no God, then goes on to say that, because we can only observe the natural world, then that must be all there is… How is that not an assumption?

 

Every part of me wants to shout “Read the freaking context and get with the understanding numbskull!”.

However, this is one of those misunderstandings that is widespread among the Christian community. The negative side of this is that it undermines the scientific process and makes it harder for science to be viewed as credible. The really sad part of this is that its often people in the congregation hearing this nonsense who don’t get science commentary from anyone other than the person in the pulpit. At its worst, this is damaging to the wider populace.

The section of my post that the commenter clearly didn’t get is this paragraph.

<blockquote>This is a basic understanding failure. The fact that its made by a leading Creationist apologetic is damning and pathetic. He really should know better. Scientists who claim there is no god do so because of the evidence they see. Its this evidence that has lead them to the conclusion of evolution and its this evidence that falsifies the Biblical accounts of Adam and Eve and The Flood. Its not then unreasonable to conclude there is no god. Science looks at natural processes because that is all that we can see and gather evidence from. That evidence is explained by those natural processes only and therefore its an easy conclusion to make that no god was involved. There is no predetermining the non-existence of any god and then building a theory which excludes it, as Ken Ham would have people believe. </blockquote>

The commenter clearly didn’t get that those scientists who don’t believe in god (or people like me who believe there is no god) do so because there is no evidence. The commentator clings to the misapprehension that is conclusion is an assumption.

I understand the misunderstanding because I was there once and I’ve heard this same misunderstanding preached at conferences.

The very important point here is that seeing the natural world and concluding no god is far more than an assumption. For starters there is the very valid null hypothesis, which leads from nothing being assumed. If you can’t see it or measure, assume its not there.

Yes I know, I used the assume word and creationists everywhere are pointing and shouting “See he even admitted he assumes no god, right after denying that was the case. Atheists are so inconsistent.”.

That would miss the point of course.

Without the evidence evolution is not assumed either. Both the creationist god and evolution start at the same point of validity when there is no evidence on the table.

Its not until the evidence comes out that the scales begin to adjust. This is the point at which conclusions are made and tests are created for the expressed purpose of disproving the conclusion. Its at this very critical point that creationists again fall over. They argue that god is supernatural and so not bound by our man made laws of science and so he can’t be tested. Not to mention the passage somewhere that expressly forbids testing the lord. I’m not sure if it applies to the scientific process, but then a heathen like me probably won’t care.

Anyway, with all the claims that Creationists will have for the existence of god, you’d think that somewhere there would be some evidence that at least merits a second look. Creationists will make a whole song and dance about the issue of testing evolution in the lab and how timescales simply don’t allow it. Yet where are the tests for god in the lab?

Multiple fields of science have independently confirm various aspect of evolution and the age of the earth. Yet nothing can come up with a test to show even a hint of god.

Its not an assumption to say there is no god, it’s a valid scientific conclusion after many years of study have shown no evidence for supernatural activities. If everything that we currently know shows a natural explanation time and time again, at what point is it acceptable to say “There is no evidence of any god and until that changes I shall not believe in one.”?

The commenter I quoted will likely still claim this is an assumption, they would be wrong.

Creationist Nonsense: Were You There?

It seems that a previous post of mine caught the eye of Ken Ham (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/conspiracy-against-creationism-and-ken-hams-intollerance/) and he felt the need to comment on it. I should feel honoured that one as humble as me has caught the attention of such a high profile Creationist.

One commenter on my post kindly copied Ken’s Facebook comment to my blog post, otherwise I may never have known.

Ken’s final paragraph gave me cause to chuckle:

Well this person wouldn’t like our Starting Points Room at the Creation museum now would they!! This person has no concept of the difference between historical science and observational science. Your kids will they–particularly those who were taught to ask ‘Were you There?’

The “Were you there?” question is one that I’ve known about for some time. Children are encouraged to ask prominent evolutionary scientists this question in response to their assertions about how we know certain facts. The implication behind it is that if you didn’t see it happen, how can you be so sure? I imagine that Creationist preachers taking this line can then go on to explain that we know the Bible to be accurate because its written down for us by eye witnesses to these events and so if they ask themselves the same question the answer is “no, but I know a man who was.”

This line of logic may work on children, but it doesn’t survive the critical examination of intelligent adults. So to see an intelligent adult actually using it in this way genuinely makes me sad.

The worst part of this line of reasoning is that it actually misses the point of the scientific study of evolution. I wonder if that’s intentional.

The scientific study of evolution is about the physical evidence and the corroboration of that evidence across different disciplines. People and their testimonies are neither sought nor trusted. A man might lie, rock strata, tree rings, varying fossil shapes and genetic relationship maps do not lie. These are there for people to examine and draw their conclusions from. If someone gets it wrong, there will be someone else along to spot it. When different interpretations come up, there is a healthy scientific discussion about it. People get impassioned and eventually the more accurate descriptions survive. Occasionally, when further evidence pops up, long held ideas get to be overturned.

This is good science; and it means that if your radical idea is to be accepted by anyone other than yourself, it has to survive immense scrutiny.

Asking “were you there?” is neither good science, nor intellectually sound. It’s the equivalent of sticking out your tongue, putting your thumbs in your ears and waving your fingers while blowing a raspberry. It serves no useful purpose.

The temptation is great to ask back, “were you there in the garden of Eden? Or on Mount Ararat? Or at the battle of Jericho?”. I’ve already given the hint as to what the answer will be. “I didn’t need to be, those who were there wrote it down, see.”

Poorer is the Creationist who takes that line and considers it weightier than the history we see in world around us.

Creationists like Ken Ham will mock the use of evidence taken from the physical world, calling it “observational science” and “garbage”. I wonder how much of this observational science is utilised at the creation museum. Does he only use physical evidence that the Bible specifically mentions? Surely he wouldn’t use fossils with an interpretation of his own that’s not mentioned in the Bible would he? What about a description of erosion that contradicts science but is not found in the Bible? I don’t know the certain answers to those questions, but given the creationist stance on evolution and the global flood, I think I can safely say that the Creation museum interprets observed science and uses an explanation that doesn’t match the prevailing understanding.

Dare I label this hypocrisy? I think I do!

Unloved by Christian Friends

My wife has an old friend (not the same friend talked about here: https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2012/05/21/how-we-lost-a-great-friend/). They lost touch many years ago but recently have re-established contact and both are looking forward to seeing each other again and catching up.

They have been friends for many years, long before my wife and I met. As these sorts of old friendships often go, they both got married, moved away, had a family, moved again and as life changes and evolves sometimes these old friendships suffer and fail to last. This is one such friendship.

Hidden in all those years, my wife’s friend has had to battle illness and depression. One of the casualties of that low period is that her marriage failed and she is now in a relationship with her counsellor. I don’t know all the details and its certainly not appropriate for me to speculate or even divulge more on the personal cost here.

Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, my wife and her old friend are back in touch and looking forward to spending a few hours with each other this week while the limey family are on holiday in the area.

Over the weekend, while discussing this week’s plans, my wife divulged that said friend and made a comment on Facebook about the support she had recently from friends over her very recent ill health and that it had revealed who her true friends were and how she’d been abandoned by her Christian ones.

My wife confessed to a tinge of guilt and wondered if she was one of the guilty Christians. So it was with great trepidation that she suggested a catch up this week and to much relief the response was warm.

The story of this friend goes beyond ill health and failed marriages. She and my wife were both committed Christians at the height of their friendship. Now her life has led her away from Christianity and her status as a Christian is in doubt.

Hearing about abandonment by Christians in this sort of scenario always makes me sad. This story especially struck a chord with me because I’ve read in the last month a couple of critical Atheist blog posts pointing fingers at Christians for using prayer as an excuse for doing nothing. The accusation being that Christians meet for prayer, feel good about it and then actually do nothing practical about the situation. While I am sure there are some who do this, I think it’s very unkind to tar all Christians with that brush, so reading those blog posts actually made me feel defensive about Christianity.

Then, off the back of those feelings my wife tells me about her old friend who feels abandoned by her Christian friends.

The story makes me feel sad and leaves me in a quandary. I know that there are many Christians who care greatly for those around them and go to great lengths to be supportive of those around me; often at personal cost. My wife is one of them. I won’t list all the stories of her saintliness; you’ll just have to believe me. I also know there are atheists who care so little for others they scoff at the idea of ‘holding them in their thoughts’; the non-believers equivalent of prayer.

So, is the recent comment by my wife’s old friend fair? What about the atheists pointing an accusing finger at those who pray but do nothing? I think they are both guilty of a bit of confirmation bias, that is, they have reached a conclusion and then highlighted the evidence that supports it.

That said, I can’t help but wonder if the proportion of Christians who do actually act to help others in practical ways is any different from the proportion of non-Christians. Is it unreasonable to expect there to be more Christians going out of their way to help those they know in need? If the effects of the Holy Spirit are real, would there be a greater number of Christians being supportive? I think these are reasonable questions and I think that it’s also reasonable to conclude that if Christian claims of God are true then an effect of that would be a measurable disparity between Christians and non-Christians who give practical help.

I wonder if such a study exists.