Saturday, June 4, 2011

Family Values?

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters — yes, even his own life — he cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:25-26

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What Would Jesus Drive?

This beautiful Mercedes Benz CL500 was parked 
in Austin, Texas -- on a parking stripe, basically taking up 2 spaces. The after-market black wheels and tires were sharp and expensive. The lone bumper sticker read: Jesus, I trust in You.

The CL500's retail price is about $90,000. That people can justify wealth accumulation with Christian faith is fascinating. To me, the phrase "wealthy Christian" is a contradiction in terms. What do wealthy Christians think when they read a passage like Matthew 19:24: "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."? How can they miss one of Jesus's core messages: Love the poor? The New Testament makes it seem like Christians should be almost Socialist in their charity and service to the poor. And yet Christian Republicans are frequently those who most fiercely oppose social programs for the poor, citing the corresponding cost.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Horrific Violence Breeds Horrific Violence

What would you do if someone instructed you to murder your child as a show of loyalty? Grab your child and run? Call the police? Or would you be loyal and do it?

Christians young and old are taught to honor Abraham for being willing to murder his only son, Isaac, at God’s request. What kind of parent would really do that? 

Religious people so often say that violent scripture is just an illustration of the real point -- a parable -- and that we need to read deeper to get the real meaning. The problem with interpretation: everyone's is different. And the Bible and Quran are often interpreted by psychopaths as instructions to kill innocent people.

For example, Andrea Yates drowned her 5 young children in their bathtub in Houston, Texas in 2001. A devout Christian, Ms. Yates read the Bible feverishly, and she and her husband "home-churched" their children three times a week. Amazingly, Yates was on firm scriptural ground when she murdered her children. Just like Abraham, when Yates felt that God required her to kill her children, she did it without question. Yates apparently takes a literal view of Christian scripture, and who can blame her? If you really believe that the perfect word of the loving creator of the universe is right there in black and white, who are you to question it? Some devout believers will do anything they believe gods are instructing them to do.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Be Healed!

Demon possession and sin as sources of sickness are described as actual problems in the Bible, and it takes fancy intellectual footwork on a reader’s part to not recognize that. Most people laugh at Benny Hinn and other faith-healers, but the Christian Bible is on Benny's side.

It’s time we be clear: Jesus claimed to be a faith-healer, and much of his ministry allegedly involved casting out demons. Here are just two examples of the dozens of passages about demon possession in the Christian Bible (Hebrew Bible plus "New" Testament). Isn't it interesting that none of these miracles left behind any evidence that we can actually verify today? Is that the only reason some people still believe these myths? These days, why do we generally require evidence in order to believe peoples' claims about faith healing? 

[Jesus "heals" a young man apparently suffering from epilepsy:]
Matthew Chapter 17
14 When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him.
15 "Lord, have mercy on my son," he said. "He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water.
16 I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him."
17 "O unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me."
18 Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.

Mark Chapter 1
23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out,
24 "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are--the Holy One of God!"
25 "Be quiet!" said Jesus sternly. "Come out of him!"
26 The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.

Belief Makes Things Real

"Reading the Will"
By Frederick Daniel Hardy
British, 1862-1911

A belief is like a lever that, once pulled, affects just about everything else. If I told you that you just inherited 15 million dollars, and if you believed me, that belief might have a powerful and transformative effect on your life, like none you could ever imagine. Notice that your belief and its effect would be unrelated to whether I was telling you the truth.


This is a photo of one of the wounded in a riot in Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan on April 1, 2011. Religious zealots burning a book in Florida caused religious zealots in Afghanistan to murder at least 12 innocent people and wound several others. Enraged by the Quran burning in Florida, the rioters were looking for Americans to kill. Unable to find any, they attacked the next best thing: the United Nations compound that was there in Afghanistan to help these very people. 2 of those killed were beheaded by the rioters, who had just been incited to violence at Friday prayers.

Is it time we admit just how much religion harms us? Do we need these violent, tribal legends in order to be good people? Or do they actually make things much worse?

Monday, March 14, 2011


Why would the one true creator of the universe only reveal himself to Bronze-age societies in the Middle East several thousand years ago… and then never be heard from again?

Monday, March 7, 2011


"My mind is incapable of conceiving such a thing as a soul. I may be in error, and man may have a soul; but I simply do not believe it. What a soul may be is beyond my understanding." -- Thomas Edison []

Friday, March 4, 2011

Message from God

On this day, God wants you to know… that He is like a unicorn: beautiful, powerful, magical, and almost certainly fictional.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Fundamental Rights

In the United States, we consider some rights “fundamental”: that is, so basic that everyone is assumed to have them all the time. One fundamental right we all enjoy: the freedom to practice whatever religion we like, or no religion at all. Another of our fundamental rights: the right to personal safety, to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights embed these rights in our society. Basic, fundamental rights like these form this country’s moral foundation.

Many Christians believe they draw their morals from the Christian Bible, and that as a society we should draw our morals from the Christian Bible. Does the Christian Bible guarantee freedom of religion? Does the Christian Bible guarantee freedom from cruel and unusual punishment?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Religions have been around as long as we have. Every human society in history has had religious or at least supernatural beliefs. We humans have imagined more than 4,000 gods over the years. In the early days, we thought gods and spirits inhabited everything: bears, trees, water, rocks. When we cut down the trees and swam in the water and didn't find any gods, gods' residences changed. Gods moved to high mountain tops. And when we climbed the mountains and didn't find any gods, their residences changed again. Gods moved from mountain tops to the sky, above what was visible from the earth. And now that we have explored space and once again found no gods, once again those gods have moved. Now gods live somewhere even more mysterious. Gods are everywhere and nowhere at once, or maybe they live inside us in undetectable spirit form.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Young Love

Let’s say it’s thousands of years ago, and Dick and Jane are engaged to be married. It’s the old days and they are forbidden to have sex until marriage. If they are caught having sex or if Jane gets pregnant before their wedding, Jane’s father will be angry and violent, and Jane and Dick will be publicly disgraced.

Jane gets pregnant before the wedding. What is the most likely cause of Jane’s pregnancy?

Thousands of years ago, it would have seemed very possible to people for Jane to be impregnated by a mystical spirit. Today, do people still think that actually happens? Can we now all agree on what causes women to become pregnant? How would you feel if your young daughter and her boyfriend claimed that a spirit had gotten her pregnant?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Not so good for me!

The Christian Bible (Hebrew Bible + "New" Testament) teaches that an all-powerful, loving diety in the sky created a plan for the universe before the foundation of time. This plan awards Christians, after their physical deaths, eternal life in paradise with their families and other loved ones. Notwithstanding how impossible that sounds, let’s assume for a moment it is true.

So far so good… for Christians. Those without a belief in Christ's divinity get burned alive forever. As Borat would say, “Not so good for them!”. The earth’s current population is over 6 billion people. Christians represent around 1/3rd; non-Christians like Borat represent around 2/3rds. If Christ somehow returns to the Earth today after a 2,000 year death-hiatus, 2+ billion Christians will be awarded eternal life in paradise. The remaining 4+ billion non-Christians will burn alive forever. 4+ billion men, women and children, from every corner of the earth, many of whom never heard about Christianity, will burn alive. Forever.

So many Christians I know pray for "end times" and for Christ’s improbable return from the sky/death. It seems to me that these people, in order to gain a reward, seek to hasten the eternal torture of more than 4 billion other people. Should that scare the $#!+ out of us? Or maybe I’m just not reading things right?

The Word

Matthew 10: 34-37 [New International Version]

"34 Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

35 For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law –

36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

37 Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

The Family Tree

These amazing languages of ours, along with our equally amazing capacities for making and using tools, make us humans a special species indeed. But that is just what we are: a species. There are 4 species of "Hominidae" - the scientific name for great apes. The 4 species are chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and humans. It is fun and inspiring to think that we humans can be granted eternal life in paradise by an almighty being in the sky. But we are apes, destined to die just like everything else that has ever lived. It’s not depressing or sad. This system is elegant, simple and beautiful. Our genes, our love and our memories flow down through the generations, courtesy of our descendants, if any. That is our eternal life.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Divine Punishment

"For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child. As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all."

--Hebrews 12:6-8 (New Living Translation)

Commentary: the Lord punishes those He loves, as we all do. If He’s not punishing you, you’re a bastard and not really His. So accept His divine punishment, just as you punish and discipline those you love. Amen.

The Good Book

“It is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies.”
-- Mark Twain, Letters From the Earth

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Unsweetened Tea

There are no atheists. And there is no unsweetened tea. We’re so used to syrupy sweet tea here in the Southern U.S. that we call “unsweetened” what the rest of the world just calls tea or plain tea. I know no process by which we can remove sweetener from tea to make it unsweetened, but with an evaporator and a centrifuge maybe we could rig something up. To me, tea is either plain or it is sweet. Similarly, we are either plain, or we believe in supernatural phenomena like ghosts, gods and spirits. I feel like it’s time we start calling plain plain, sweet sweet and superstitious superstitious.

Post Number 1

Welcome one and all to American Skeptic. On this blog you will find random thoughts, quotes and other items that I don't want to post on Facebook. Enjoy. Comments are welcome.

“Create art like your parents are dead.”
-- Bumper sticker